Supreme Court upholds CAT decision in favour of BT over ladder pricing

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The long-running legal dispute between the British Telecom and the mobile operators has finally come to end with the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of BT on Wednesday.

Dismissing the appeal filed by Vodafone, EE, Three and O2, the Supreme Court has upheld the decision of Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in the case relating to rise in payments for calls to non-geographic numbers such as 0800, 0870 and 0845, ruling that BT had the right to change tariffs.

As a result, the mobile operators might have to make retrospective payments worth in the low “tens of millions of pounds” to BT dating to 2009.

Back in 2009, BT first introduced the ladder pricing for 0800 calls, and extended it to 0845 and 0870 calls, later. Ofcom originally rejected BT’s scheme stating that it could have negative effect on consumers, which was overturned by CAT later the same year.

The Supreme Court has now ruled to re-instate the CAT decision, in favour of BT, stating that Ofcom had taken an incorrect approach to take the initial decision.

A BT spokesperson said that the pricing was specifically designed to incentivise the mobile operators and lower the retail prices, leading to benefit for UK consumers. BT added that it will start with the procedures for recovering the money refunded to mobile operators and also pursue claims for “further termination charges subsequent to that ruling.”

Vodafone said that the mobile operators “will review the judgement in more detail” before further submissions related to “implementation of the judgement.”

EE said that the parties are “both surprised and disappointed” with the ruling and will initiative “further administrative and legal steps.” EE also added that it still views BT’s ladder charges to be ultimately harmful to consumers.