Technology

Britons ‘could be owed £480m for being overcharged on smartphone purchases'

Consumer group Which? is seeking damages from Qualcomm for around 29 million people who bought an affected handset since October 2015.

Britons could be owed more than £480 million for allegedly being overcharged on smartphone purchases, Which? has said.

The consumer rights group believes as many as 29 million people who have bought a 4G smartphone since October 2015 could be entitled to a payout from chipmaker Qualcomm.

Which? claims that the American firm has breached UK competition law by abusing its dominance in the patent-licensing and chipset markets.

Qualcomm’s technology can be found in a number of leading brands, including Apple and Samsung.

According to Which?, the firm is able to inflate the fees it charges manufacturers, which the consumer is forced to bear in the form of increased handset prices.

Damages are being sought for all affected Apple and Samsung smartphones purchased since October 1, 2015, which could result in an average payout of around £17 for each person.

Qualcomm
Qualcomm is one of the world’s leading chipmakers (Qualcomm/PA)

“We believe Qualcomm’s practices are anti-competitive and have so far taken around £480 million from UK consumers’ pockets – this needs to stop,” said Anabel Hoult, chief executive of Which?.

“We are sending a clear warning that if companies like Qualcomm indulge in manipulative practices which harm consumers, Which? is prepared to take action.

“If Qualcomm has abused its market power it must be held to account.

“Without Which? bringing this claim on behalf of millions of affected UK consumers, it would simply not be realistic for people to seek damages from the company on an individual basis – that’s why it’s so important that consumers can come together and claim the redress they are entitled to.”

Which?’s claim will state that Qualcomm refuses to license its patents to other competing chipset manufacturers, and refuses to supply chipsets to smartphone manufacturers unless companies obtain a separate licence and pay substantial royalties.

The consumer group will need permission from the Competition Appeal Tribunal to act as class representative for any chance of compensation, unless the firm agrees a settlement before.

Qualcomm has previously been investigated by competition authorities in the US, Canada, and the European Commission.

Christine Trimble, vice president of public affairs at Qualcomm, said: “There is no basis for this lawsuit.

“As the plaintiffs are well aware, their claims were effectively put to rest last summer by a unanimous panel of judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States.”

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