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BT set for 'multimillion pound windfall' after court victory on call charges

O2, Vodafone, EE and Three will have to cough up 0800 call charges
Thu Jul 10 2014, 10:57
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UK TELECOMS FIRM British Telecom (BT) is set to receive a "multimillion pound windfall" from UK mobile operators following a UK Supreme Court victory over phone call charges.

The UK Supreme Court ruled in favour of BT on Thursday following a long-running dispute between the firm and mobile operators regarding extra payments for calls to non-geographic numbers such as 0800 and 0845.

The court dismissed an appeal filed by EE, Telefonica, Three and Vodafone, which were trying to block charges for calls made to 0800 and 0845 numbers, blasting the "ladder costs" - BT's wholesale interconnect tariffs - as "unreasonable."

Instead, the court ruled that the operators' and their respective parent companies will have to make retrospective payments to BT dating back to 2009 - when the BT first introduced its ladder pricing - which could add up to "tens of millions of pounds". An exact amount is yet to be decided.

"Clause 12 of BT's Standard Interconnect Agreement confers a discretion on BT to unilaterally fix or vary its charges," the UK Supreme court said in its ruling.

Following the court ruling, BT said in a statement, "We will now start proceedings to recover the money that has been refunded to the mobile operators since the Court of Appeal ruling.

"We will also be pursuing claims for further termination charges subsequent to that ruling. Such pricing was designed to benefit UK consumers by incentivising the mobile operators to lower their retail prices."

EE has spoken out about the ruling, and it isn't happy. A spokesperson said, "We are both surprised and disappointed by this decision. We are closely considering our position, but, regardless of the outcome, EE remains firmly of the view that BT's ladder charges are ultimately harmful to consumers and investment in mobile coverage."

Vodafone added that the operators "will review the judgement in more detail" before deciding what steps to take next. µ


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