Consumer group Which? has been given the go ahead by a UK competition tribunal to press on with a class suit against Qualcomm (QCOM), putting Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (005930.KS) costumers in line for a compensation payout totalling £500m ($625m).
Which? will represent almost 30 million people across the UK in a legal battle against a smartphone chip maker.
The consumer champion claims Qualcomm has abused its position as a dominant company charging smartphone manufacturers, such as Apple and Samsung, inflated fees to use its technology increasing their costs which in turn led to costumers paying higher prices for their phones.
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Which? has now been given permission by the Competition Appeal Tribunal to go to trial in a bid to win compensation for millions of people affected by the situation. It expects more than £480m could be recouped, meaning each eligible consumer could get around £16 to £17.
Anabel Hoult, Which? chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to have secured this great result for consumers, bringing them a step closer to the nearly £500m that we believe they are owed by Qualcomm.
“If Qualcomm has abused its market power it must be held to account. This judgment ensures that it can be. Which? brought this claim on behalf of millions of affected UK consumers, as it would not have been 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.
“We now urge everyone who thinks they may be affected to visit www.smartphoneclaim.co.uk to find out more about the claim and sign up for campaign updates.”
Qualcomm fought against the case going ahead and in a statement claimed it had already won a similar claim in the US.
“We disagree with today’s ruling, though it is strictly procedural and in no way supportive of the plaintiff’s meritless assertions,” the chip company added.
“The claims here recycle allegations in an old case brought by the Federal Trade Commission in the US which Qualcomm won. The theories seen here were discredited two years ago by a unanimous panel of judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the US”.
Qualcomm had argued the cost of the legal battle would outweigh any benefit, but its concerns were overruled by the Tribunal.
The Tribunal pointed out that given the current cost of living crisis, even a small amount of compensation was likely to be welcomed by consumers.
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