BT UK to Pay Lawsuit Worth of $800 Million Over Systemically 'Overcharging' History

BT, a UK-based telecom company, formerly named British Telecom, faces an $800 million (£600 million) lawsuit over its historic 'overcharging.' Elderly customers and a group of pensioners filed the class-action lawsuit against the company earlier this week. 

"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," said Justin Le Patourel, Collective Action on Landlines consumer group founder said, as reported by the BBC

Four years ago, Ofcom, a watchdog organization for telecom companies, found BT guilty of overcharging 2.3 million landslide customers since 2009. Although the company has reduced its price by £7 a month, many are still not compensated for the previous loss. 

Le Patourel, who serves as a telecom consultant for Ofcom for over 13 years, accuses the company of not repaying the money made from this landline overcharging mess.

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Vehement Denial

Despite the lawsuit, BT vehemently denies that the company has been engaging with an unhealthy way of competitiveness and a shady monopolistic way of doing business. In a statement, BT denies its failure to adequately address the overcharging. It believes that it has been offering a plethora of discounted landline and broadband packages in a smart and competitive market. 

"We take our responsibilities to older and more vulnerable customers very seriously and will defend ourselves against any claim that suggests otherwise," the company says in a statement, as noted from Reuters.

BT also states that it intends to defend itself "vigorously" in the courtroom. The company also believes that Ofcom's final statement does not explicitly accuse the company of the monopoly, hence the denial.  

For references, the cheapest landline deals from BT starts from £20.20 a month, although a connection fee may apply later. The website offers several deals, with the most expensive one costs £35.20 a month. 

A Long History

The suit goes as earliest as 2017. After steadily falling by at least 25% since 2009, the costs of providing landlines to customers see an unbelievable 28-41% increase in October 2017, as Ofcom found. 

The telecoms giant has a long history of fines and breaching the uncompetitive market. Ofcom fined the company £42 ($56,9) million for not providing high-speed Ethernet lines on time in the same year. 

Telecoms analyst Ian Grant told the BBC that it's unethical for such a giant telecoms company like BT to overcharge over-65 customers whom the telephone was their only communications link. Even worse, three-quarters of them are loyal customers who had never switched to another provider.

Law firm Mishcon de Reya filed a "Competition Appeal Tribunal" claim worth $800 million, resulting in a $678 payment of each for 2.3 million BT customers. Should the suit be successful, BT would have to pay the amount worth 500 in British pound sterlings to each customer. 

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