HomeMobile EuropePhones 4U accuses DT, EE, Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica of deadly collusion

    Phones 4U accuses DT, EE, Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica of deadly collusion


    Did MNOs collectively pull the plug on retailer?

    Europe’s top mobile operators EE, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica and made claims are denying an accusation of ‘unlawful collusion’ brought by lawyers representing Phones 4u in a UK High Court battle. Eight years after virtual mobile mobile operator Phones 4U was put out of business the administrator of its bankruptcy is alleging that the company was victim of an arrangement which infringes “prohibitions on anti-competitive arrangements”. A barrister leading Phones 4u’s legal team on Monday told the court of “evidence of unlawful collusion”, reports the UK Press Association. All five european mobile network operators (MNOs) deny the allegations made against them.

    Phones4u seeks damages

    Three mobile network operators were supplying Phones 4u at the beginning of 2014, barrister Kenneth MacLean QC, who is leading Phones 4u’s legal team, told Mr Justice Roth in a written case summary. But by September all of them had pulled out and Phones 4u had gone into administration. The question is whether their decisions were unilateral or as a result of collusion. “The more material has emerged … the more the evidence of unlawful collusion has deepened,” said MacLean. Ewan McQuater QC, leading Vodafone’s legal team, told the judge in a written argument, that one “essential” issue was whether Vodafone colluded with other mobile network operators to withdraw from Phones 4u or to put Phones 4u out of business.

    Claim bound to fail

    The answer is No, said McQuater: “The claim faces overwhelming difficulties and is bound to fail.” Detail of the litigation emerged last year when Court of Appeal judges considered legal issues in the case. Three appeal judges outlined Phones 4u’s complaints in a ruling published in February 2021. “Phones 4u was one of the two major retail intermediaries for mobile telephones in the UK,” appeal judges said in a ruling. “It had agreements with each of the mobile network operators for the supply of connections to retail customers. Between January 2013 and September 2014, the agreements that Phones 4u had with O2 (the UK trading name of the Telefonica defendants), Vodafone and EE … either expired and were not renewed or were terminated by the relevant mobile network operator.”

    Arrangement denied

    The statement concluded with an allegation: “Phones 4u alleges in these proceedings that these events resulted from exchanges or commitments between the defendants. The alleged arrangement (which is denied by the defendants) is said to infringe the prohibitions on anti-competitive arrangements under section 2 of the Competition Act 1998… Phones 4u seeks damages.”