Sunday 17 January 2021 11:27 am

BT faces £600m claim for historic overcharging on landlines

A £600m claim has been filed against BT at the Competition Appeal Tribunal that relates to historic overcharging for landlines.

The claim could result in payments of up to £500 each for 2.3 million BT customers.

The case is being brought by Justin Le Patourel, a telecoms consultant who worked for Ofcom for 13 years. 

Le Patourel is a representative of CALL – Collective Action on Landlines – which seeks to obtain compensation for BT customers who overpaid for landlines for several years.

In 2017 Ofcom found that BT had been overcharging millions of landline customers since 2009. In 2009 the wholesale cost of providing landlines started to fall, but BT continued to increase its prices.

After the Ofcom finding BT agreed to reduce its landline prices by £7 per month, but the telephone giant did not make efforts to repay customers for the previous eight years of overcharging.  

Under current legal rules, it is not possible to extend the claim all the way back to the year the overcharging started in 2009. But CALL can seek damages from 2015.

Le Patourel said: “Ofcom made it very clear that BT had spent years overcharging landline customers but did not order it to repay the money it made from this. We think millions of BT’s most loyal landline customers could be entitled to compensation of up to £500 each, and the filing of this claim starts that process.”

BT ‘strongly disagrees’

The affected customers were those who purchased a BT landline but did not also take BT broadband. According to Ofcom these customers were likely to be old, on low incomes and vulnerable. 

Rob Murray, partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya, who is representing Le Patourel and CALL, said: “The claims of customers directly harmed by BT’s exploitative behaviour are precisely the type of claims the collective actions regime is designed to deal with.

“We hope very much that a settlement can be reached to resolve them in line with BTs acceptance of the need to avoid overcharging when investigated by Ofcom.”

In a statement BT said it “strongly disagreed” with the claim being brought against it.

“We take our responsibilities to older and more vulnerable customers very seriously and will defend ourselves against any claim that suggests otherwise.

“For many years we’ve offered discounted landline and broadband packages in what is a competitive market, and take pride in our work with elderly and vulnerable groups, as well as our work on the Customer Fairness agenda.

“We continue to offer a variety of packages to support our customers through the pandemic.”

Le Patourel is also seeking compensation for customers who took both a broadband service and a BT landline, but not together as a package.

According to Le Patourel, those people were excluded from BT’s 2017 price cut, and so continue to be overcharged to this day.