fivehundred magazine > Disputes Yearbook 2024 > Justin LePatourel v BT

Justin LePatourel v BT

2018 saw Ofcom decide that BT held significant market power in relation to stand-alone landline customers, finding that the company had been overcharging customers by at least £7 a month. Due to the significant market power exerted by BT, Ofcom and BT agreed to reduce its prices going forward. However, compensation was not provided for consumers for the previous years of overcharging, nor for clients who had purchased both internet access and phone access.

The initial claim, filed in 2020, saw class representative Justin LePatourel seeking compensation on behalf of these consumers. In the first-ever opt-out collective action to reach trial, it is set to be closely watched by claimant and defendant firms alike, and is anticipated to have significant effects on the class action landscape in England and Wales.

The CAT first considered the claim, brought on behalf of over three billion BT customers and valued at £1.3bn, in a six-week hearing from 29 January. Milberg partner Natasha Pearman explains that the claim has already dealt with a range of novel issues including class certification and disclosure. The proceedings following trial will provide clarity regarding the tribunal’s approach to damages and returns to funders – in particular in cases where a high proportion of class members who are either elderly or deceased.

For Justin LePatourel: Ronit Kresiberger KC, Jack Williams, and Michael Armitage (Monckton Chambers) and Derek Spitz and Matthew Barry (One Essex Court) instructed by Sarah Houghton (Mishcon de Reya)

For BT: Daniel Beard KC, Daisy Mackersie and Natalie Nguyen (Monckton Chambers) and Ali Al-Karim and Sarah Love (Brick Court Chambers) instructed by Patrick Boylan and Satyen Dhana (Simmons & Simmons)

For the Competition and Markets Authority as an intervening party: David Bailey and Jennifer MacLeod (Brick Court Chambers) instructed by the CMA in-house team