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Why 29 million Brits may be owed up to £30 compensation

Why 29 million Brits may be owed up to £30 compensation
Image source: Getty Images

Have you bought a 4G smartphone in the last few years? If so, you might be entitled to compensation due to a possible breach of competition law. Let’s break down everything we know so far, including which phones are affected and when we might find out more.

What’s happened?

Essentially consumer watchdog Which? is suing Qualcomm, a smartphone chipmaker, for breaching competition law.

It’s a little complex, but basically, competition law makes it illegal for companies to use their market power to gain unlawful or unfair advantages in the marketplace. If companies act ‘anticompetitively’, consumers can end up paying more than is fair for goods and services.

Which? claims that Qualcomm broke competition law in two ways:

  • Failing to supply chips to Apple or Samsung unless they purchased special licences and paid Qualcomm inflated prices.
  • Refusing to license its chip patents to other manufacturers.

Which? argues that, combined, these practices enable Qualcomm to charge inflated prices and stifle competition in the marketplace. 

The case affects more than 29 million Britons, so it’s a big deal if it goes ahead. 

Why might I get compensation? 

It comes down to one simple thing: you might have paid more for your smartphone than you should have. So, if the case is successful, you’ll get back the amount you overpaid. 

Why is the case important?

It’s important for two reasons:

  • It’s not okay for a company to use its market influence to hike prices (if that’s what’s happening).
  • Since it’s so hard for individual customers to sue huge companies, group claims like this one make it easier for people to access justice. 

Does it matter which smartphone I bought?

Yes. The case only affects customers who bought Apple or Samsung smartphones from October 2015. So, if you bought a smartphone from manufacturers like Sony or Nokia, you won’t be eligible for compensation. 

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It doesn’t matter whether you bought your phone from the manufacturer, a network operator or a retail store, either. If you bought the phone in the UK, and it was delivered to a UK address, it’s covered. 

And don’t worry – there’s no need to ‘opt in’ to the proceedings. If you bought an affected phone, you’re automatically included in the claim and you should be compensated if it’s successful. 

How much compensation could I get?

The amount of compensation you could get depends on two things:

  • Which device you bought. 
  • How many Apple and Samsung handsets you’ve purchased between October 2015 and now.

Compensation could range from £5 to £30 per handset. 

Bear in mind that there’s no guarantee you’ll get any money, though. If Qualcomm refuses to settle and the Which? claim is dismissed, you won’t get any compensation.

When will I know if I’ll get compensation?

Right now, we’re waiting for the Competition Appeal Tribunal to decide whether the case will go ahead or not.

If the tribunal agrees to let the case proceed, it’ll still be some time before the case goes before the panel. So, it could be a number of months before we know for sure what’s happening. 

So, what now?

All we can do for now is sit tight and watch how the claim unfolds. You’ll be notified if you’re due compensation.

In the meantime, you can use your smartphone and data as normal. Don’t let the case put you off upgrading your phone if you’re in the market for a new one!

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