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Are you due a £500 refund from BT?

Written by: Emma Lunn
BT faces a class action which could see more than 2.3 million residential customers awarded compensation from BT.

The Collective Action on Land Lines – CALL – is seeking compensation from BT on behalf of 2.3 million home phone customers who it says were overcharged between October 2015 and April 2018.

The case is spearheaded by telecoms and consumer expert Justin Le Patourel and London law firm Mischon de Reya. Patourel claims that millions of BT customers are still being overcharged for home phone services. The total claim could be worth nearly £600m.

What’s the case about?

The action relates to BT customers who only had a landline from BT, without broadband or another service, from October 2015.

The claim is based on conclusions made by Ofcom as part of a 2017 review which found that BT had significant market power, was a price-leader, and was overcharging ‘standalone’ landline customers for line rental services.

As a result of Ofcom’s investigation, BT agreed to reduce its line rental price by £7 per month for some of its customers. However, BT didn’t offer to compensate its customers for its past wrongdoing, meaning some landline customers are still out of pocket.

The court action seeks compensation for the historic overcharges and for people who were excluded from BT’s voluntary reduction. Affected BT customers do not have to do anything to be part of the claim and will not have to pay legal costs.

The Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) will begin hearing Le Patourel’s lawsuit today. The hearing will determine which claimants will be included in the class, who will be certified to represent them, and if Le Patourel is certified.

A high proportion of the consumers affected are aged over 75 or on a low income. Patourel claims they have essentially been penalised with higher prices because of their loyalty to BT.

Am I entitled to a refund?

If you purchased an unbundled BT landline from 2015 onwards, it is likely that you may have been subjected to unfair pricing. ‘Unbundled’ means you just had a landline but not a broadband service (from BT or any other provider).

Depending on how long you have been or were a BT landline-only customer, you could be looking at compensation of up to £500.

A ‘collective action’ allows a group of individuals to group together to try to get compensation for the losses they have experienced. Affected customers are automatically included in a collective action but can opt out if they want to.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of advocacy and policy, said: “Effective collective redress is something Which? has long campaigned for, and while no claim under the regime has reached a full trial yet, it is encouraging to see this case against BT progress, and hopefully be allowed to proceed to a full trial.

“If successful, this opt-out action would be good news for many BT customers who were found to have been historically overcharged for years, but saw no refund as a result.”

What does BT say?

BT said it will defend itself vigorously the class action and pointed out that Ofcom’s final statement three years ago made no finding of excessive pricing or breach of competition law more generally.

A BT spokesperson said: “We strongly disagree with the claim being brought against us. We take our responsibilities to customers very seriously and will defend ourselves against any claim that suggests otherwise.

“We take pride in our work on the customer fairness agenda. For many years we’ve offered a discounted social tariff in what is a competitive market with competing options available, and this month we are extending that to help a potential four million households on low incomes, save on bills and stay connected to vital online services.

“We assure our customers that we will not let this claim disrupt the relationship BT has with them. We will continue to support our customers through the pandemic and beyond.”

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