Millions of 4G smartphone owners may be due up to £30 payout after claims handset prices were inflated
Around 29 million 4G Apple and Samsung smartphone owners in the UK could be entitled to a payout of up to £30 if a collective action case by Which? is successful - although there are no guarantees. It comes after the consumer group claimed inflated manufacturing costs were passed onto consumers.
Update: 20 May 2022: The Competition Appeal Tribunal has this week given consumer group Which? permission to go ahead with its case against smartphone component manufacturer Qualcomm. The Tribunal also confirmed that Which? can act as a class representative on behalf of consumers. The next steps in the case will be set out by the Tribunal in the following months.
We have contacted Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung for comment.
Which? alleges that Qualcomm, which makes smartphone components, has breached UK competition law by charging manufacturers, such as Apple and Samsung, inflated costs, which may have then been passed onto consumers in the form of higher smartphone prices.
The consumer group is now seeking damages for anyone who purchased an Apple or Samsung smartphone since 1 October 2015. These purchases could have been made via a mobile network operator (such as EE, O2 or Vodafone) or through a retail store (such as Carphone Warehouse). This includes smartphones bought outright or as part of a smartphone plan or on credit.
According to Which?, mobile users could collectively be owed £482.5 million in damages from US tech giant Qualcomm. That's between roughly £5 and £30 depending on the number and type of smartphones purchased, although £17 is the average payout expected. If you're in the market for a new handset, use our Cheap Mobile Finder tool to compare prices at 50-plus retailers and resellers.
The case needs approval from the Competition Appeal Tribunal to proceed
Which? has filed its collective action case but it now needs to obtain permission from the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) to act as class representative and for the claim to proceed on a collective basis.
Collective proceedings involve a claim brought by a representative on behalf of a group of people who have suffered loss as a result of a breach of competition law. This means Which? can act on behalf of smartphone owners unless they opt out of the case. However, Which? is urging Qualcomm to settle the claim by offering consumers their money back without the need for court action.
Which? adds that it is possible owners of other types of phones have also paid too much due to Qualcomm’s behaviour, but at this stage it's focusing on ensuring that owners of the two most popular brands of phones in the country are awarded damages.
There's no guarantee the case will be successful
There is no guarantee that compensation will be paid out to consumers at this stage though, and cases like this can take years before a conclusion is reached - so don't expect a payout soon, or at all.
A Qualcomm spokeswomen 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.”
MoneySavingExpert.com has asked Apple and Samsung to comment and we'll update this story if we hear back.