Apple and Samsung phone owners could be in line for up to £30 compensation as part of a landmark legal action against a microchip company.
The consumer watchdog Which? has launched a case against smartphone chip giant Qualcomm arguing its business practices unfairly increased the price of iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets.
If successful, the action could see upwards of £482 million awarded to around 30 million UK customers who have bought those models since October 2015.
The case, which has been lodged at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, is the first time Which? is attempting to use new powers under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to launch legal actions on behalf of consumers.
Its case argues that Qualcomm breached UK competition law with its dominance of technology patents and the fees it charged Apple and Samsung to use its chips.
Which? says that these costs were then unfairly passed onto consumers in the form of higher handset prices. A website
Qualcomm has already faced investigations from other regulators in the US, Europe and Asia over alleged anti-competitive practices.
Which? said it anticipates the affected customers would earn payouts of around £17 each, rising to around £30 on the basis most people will have owned more than one phone in that period.
UK consumers who purchased an Apple or Samsung smartphone (including as part of a mobile phone contract) in the UK on or after 1 October 2015 can find out if they are due a payment on the Which? website.
Anabel Hoult, CEO of Which?, said: “We believe Qualcomm’s practices are anticompetitive and have so far taken around £480 million from UK consumers’ pockets – this needs to stop. 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.”
A Qualcomm spokeswoman 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.”