The UK incumbent operator must face down a class action lawsuit that could see it pay £500 to each affected customer

Yesterday, it was announced that BT will face a class action lawsuit due to purportedly overcharging customers for landlines between 2009 and 2017. The claim is brought by law firm Mishcon de Reya, who represent about 2.3 million BT customers who are seeking compensation.

In 2017, a review by Ofcom found that UK landline providers had raised the price of landline rental by between 28% and 41%, despite wholesale costs dropping by a quarter. As a direct result of this review, BT quickly lowered its prices by around £7 per month. However, the report by Ofcom and did not mandate any reimbursement from the operator, leaving millions of customers without financial recourse, having been overcharged for their service for the last eight years. 
Given the current legal framework, it will not be possible to seek reimbursement all the way back to  2009, but the group can seek damages from 2015 onwards.
“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,” explained Justin Le Patourel, founder of Collective Action on Landlines, the collective raising the claim.
Le Patourel is well positioned to take up this legal fight, himself a former telecoms consultant that worked for Ofcom for 13 years. 
BT has “strongly disagreed” with the claim, saying they take their “responsibilities towards older and more vulnerable customers very seriously and will defend ourselves against any claim that suggests otherwise.”
The operator has been facing more than its fair share of troubles in recent months. Last month, it was reported that the company could see a national strike by its workers as a result of compulsory redundancies, site closures and changes to pay, terms and conditions. Similarly, an investigation by Ofcom was launched in October 2020, seeking to assess whether the operator was in compliance with its obligations as a broadband universal service provider, after complaints that some rural customers were being quoted excessive sums for fibre installation.
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