- Consumer champion and former Citizens Advice executive, Justin Gutmann is bringing the case against the UK's four largest mobile phone network operators: Vodafone, EE, Three, and O2, and their respective parent companies.
- The £3bn plus claim alleges that the companies used their market dominance to overcharge on up to 28.2 million UK mobile phone contracts.
- The class action is the first to target the Major Network Operators' practice of charging "loyalty penalties" - charging existing customers more than new customers for the same services.
LONDON, Dec. 8, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumer rights champion Justin Gutmann and the law firm Charles Lyndon have today announced that class action proceedings have been launched against Vodafone, EE, Three, and O2 (the "Loyalty Penalty Claim"). The Loyalty Penalty Claim alleges the companies have been abusing their dominant positions in the UK mobile industry by charging a 'loyalty penalty,' in which long standing customers were overcharged for handsets beyond the end of their contractual term.
Mr Gutmann alleges the mobile operators have overcharged on up to 28.2 million contracts and, as a result, is seeking damages of at least £3.285 billion. If successful, someone who held a contract with just one of the mobile operators could receive as much as £1,823. Many consumers are expected to have claims against more than one mobile operator and so could receive even more compensation. The class actions have been filed in the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London, United Kingdom.
The Loyalty Penalty Claim is being brought on behalf of consumers who have purchased mobile contracts made up of a mobile phone and airtime services such as data, minutes and calls. When these contracts are agreed, their price during the minimum term of the contract includes both the mobile and the use of airtime services.
The Loyalty Penalty Claim alleges that the mobile network operators failed to reduce the amount charged once the minimum contractual term expired, despite the fact that consumers had already paid for their mobiles. This resulted in existing customers being charged more than a new customer would be if they were just paying for airtime services.
A typical example would be someone who agreed a two-year contract combined contract for a mobile phone and a SIM airtime services deal, paid off their mobile phone during the course of their contract, but then continued to be charged the same amount once the minimum contract term had expired, resulting in them paying far more than they would if they were a new customer on a SIM only deal.
Most customers of these mobile network operators who made payments after the expiry of their contractual minimum term are included in the Loyalty Penalty Claim, which is being conducted on an "opt-out" basis. This means that the claim is brought on behalf of a defined group of people, but those people do not have to be personally identified. All qualifying consumers will be automatically included in the Claim for free unless they follow specific steps to opt out. Mr Gutmann is encouraging consumers to visit the dedicated Loyalty Penalty Claim website so they can be kept updated on the progress of the claim.
The Loyalty Penalty Claim follows a rare super-complaint from Citizens Advice to the Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA") in September 2018. The CMA found that: "We do not consider that providers should continue to charge customers the same rate once they have effectively paid off their handsets at the end of the minimum contract period. This is unfair and must be stopped." They also added that customers "rightly feel ripped off, let down and frustrated".
Justin Gutmann said: "I'm launching this class action because I believe these four mobile phone companies have systematically exploited millions of loyal customers across the UK through loyalty penalties – taking over £3 billion out of the pockets of hard working people and their families. These companies kept taking advantage of customers despite the financial crisis of 2008, Covid and now the cost of living crisis. It's time they were held to account."
Justin added: "If our claim is successful, it will finally stop these firms from taking advantage of their loyal customers and stop the immoral practice of loyalty penalties."
To learn more or to opt-out of the Loyalty Penalty Claim class action, visit www.LoyaltyPenaltyClaim.com
ABOUT JUSTIN GUTMANN
Justin Gutmann is the former Head of Research and Insight at the UK's statutory consumer champion Citizens Advice. He is still committed to representing consumers and protecting their rights. He has been authorised by the Competition Appeal Tribunal as class representative to represent rail users who he believes have been overcharged by a number of rail companies. This case is proceeding to a full trial where, with the help of Charles Lyndon, he will argue that millions of rail users should be compensated.
ABOUT CHARLES LYNDON
Charles Lyndon is a litigation firm based in London. Charles Lyndon's specialist litigation lawyers are experienced in representing claimants in high profile claims before the Competition Appeal Tribunal. They have acted in a broad range of class action and competition law cases and are at the forefront of the collective proceedings regime.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The estimated loss across all mobile network operators since 2007 is estimated at £3.285 billion including simple interest. If distributed evenly, contract holders from the mobile network operators listed below are estimated to receive the following amounts:
- Vodafone - up to £1,823 (including simple interest)
- EE (BT Group Plc) - up to £1,101 (including simple interest)
- Three (Hutchinson 3G UK Limited) - up to £1,817 (including simple interest)
- O2 (Telefonica UK Limited) - up to £1,178 (including simple interest)