UK’s nascent class action regime: CAT certifies claim against BT to proceed to trial

In January 2021, Mr. Justin Le Patourel brought a collective proceedings claim for £469m pre-interest on behalf of approximately 2.3m customers who are alleged to have been overcharged by BT for their standalone landline telephone services.

The claim was prompted by Ofcom’s finding in 2017 that customers of these services were not being served well by the market. It found that prices had risen by 23% to 47% between 2009 and 2017, while the cost of provision fell by about 27% over the same period.

Before proceeding to trial, the claim needed to be certified by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). BT applied to strike out the claim on the basis that the claim had no reasonable grounds and had no real prospect of success.

Our role

David Parker acted as expert witness for Mr. Le Patourel, providing his views on

  • how the relevant market(s) should be defined;
  • whether BT is dominant in those markets;
  • whether BT’s charges for landline are excessive and therefore abusive; and
  • a methodology for calculating the aggregate amount of damages.

He also provided evidence in response to BT’s strike-out application.

The claim will now proceed to trial

The CAT decided that Mr. Le Patourel’s application for certification should succeed. In doing so, it rejected each of BT's six objections to David’s evidence, stating that "Mr Parker’s evidence as a whole is clear in its support for at least a prime facie case of abuse as against BT". As a result of the CAT’s judgment, Mr. Le Patourel’s case becomes only the second claim to be certified under the UK’s nascent class actions regime.

In addition to our continuing work on this case, we are advising a number of applicants and respondents involved in other certification applications before the CAT, and we are assisting Mastercard in relation to the recently certified Merricks case.