Now Justin Le Patourel can bring the landmark case to recover hundreds of pounds for BT landline-only customers, many of whom are older and from low-income households.
Le Patourel says, “We believe that BT has been overcharging millions of its most loyal customers for years. We are thrilled that this decision will bring us one step closer to putting right this injustice.”
In 2017, Ofcom investigated BT and discovered that it had been overcharging its landline customers. Although the costs of providing landlines had been falling since 2009, BT continued to put up its prices. BT agreed with Ofcom to reduce the future bills of these neglected customers, but it did not compensate them for past overcharging.
Earlier this year, determined to put this right, Justin Le Patourel, founder of CALL (Collective Action on Land Lines) launched Justin Le Patourel v BT Group Plc and British Telecommunications Plc in the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT).
Under the UK’s competition regime, a person wishing to bring a class action on behalf of customers (and/or businesses) must first secure approval from the CAT. Le Patourel’s application was heard by the Tribunal in a two-day hearing from 24 to 25 June 2021.
BT argued that the claims were not suitable to be brought in collective proceedings, often known as class actions. However, the Tribunal has granted Le Patourel permission to bring the claim on behalf of the following BT customers:
- “Voice Only Customers”, who had a BT landline service between October 2015 and April 2018, but did not also receive a broadband service (from BT or any other provider).
- “Split Purchase Customers”, who had a BT landline service alongside a broadband service (from BT or another provider) at any time since October 2015, but who did not ‘bundle’ these services together into a single, discounted package.
All affected customers will automatically be represented, and therefore do not need to take any steps to join the action. Customers can however choose to opt out if they wish.
In its judgment, available here, the Tribunal notes “[Mr Le Patourel’s] application for a CPO succeeds [..]. This Judgment is unanimous”.
In the next step, the case will proceed to full trial and, if successful, the 2.31 million BT customers who are believed to have been overcharged could receive up to £500 each in compensation – for many customers, this cost equates to the cost of their average winter fuel payment.
Le Patourel says “We think that these customers could be entitled to a substantial repayment of up to £500 each. This decision is a great step in the right direction and we look forward to the full trial, where we will continue fighting for BTs loyal and mistreated customers.”
Justin Le Patourel and the consumer group CALL are being advised by leading law firm, Mishcon de Reya with funding from Harbour.
Ellora MacPherson, CIO at Harbour said: “The CAT’s judgment on certification is good news for the millions of customers BT is alleged to have overcharged. We are delighted to be funding this case, and it comes as a timely reminder of the important role that litigation funding can play in bringing these sorts of consumer cases.”
 Details regarding how to opt out can be found on the CALL website – www.callclaim.co.uk.