back to article Brit telcos can keep £218m licence fee repayment from Ofcom after penny-pinching regulator loses Court of Appeal case

The UK's four main mobile network operators (MNOs) can keep the £218m Ofcom was set to repay after overcharging them for spectrum access, the Court of Appeal ruled today. Three senior UK judges ruled that the companies had been entitled to claw back several hundreds of millions in overpaid licence fees. The £218m figure is …

  1. dajames Silver badge

    Not sure whether to laugh or cry

    We need to have a regulator with teeth to keep the avaricious telcos in order.

    If OFCOM have increased fees unreasonably then they deserve a slap on the wrist, but this seems to go too far. OFCOM has always seemed a toothless guard dog in the past, and a ruling like this won't encourage it to bite harder in the future. The telcos will have covered the cost by increasing their charges, but I don't see them passing on any of these returned fees to their customers.

    It seems to me that a nominal fine -- payable to the courts and not to the telcos -- might have been more appropriate.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Not sure whether to laugh or cry

      "It seems to me that a nominal fine -- payable to the courts and not to the telcos"

      Agreed for the simply reason that heads of these companies probably each lunch and make yacht invitations on a regular basis. The money will simply be alternatively distributed between them ..

      Skeptic, who me..?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did the consumer ever get the VAT on jaffa cakes refunded ?

    No.

    Same here.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The repayment of these fees will enable us to invest in the country's digital infrastructure ..."

    Oh, sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The repayment of these fees will enable us to invest in the country's digital...

      My thoughts exactly. If that was the case then they would been investing heavily before Ofcom jacked the price.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: "The repayment of these fees will enable us to invest in the country's digital...

        They are investing. Of course they do seem to all be investing in 5G in city centres, rather than filling in blackspots in the countryside, but coverage is actually something that mobile networks in the UK compete on. (This may confuse US readers, who aren't used to competition in telecoms).

  4. K

    I'm surprised

    I thought they'd have left this as token of appreciation for basically allowing them to reintroduce roaming fees.

  5. HmYiss

    Good.

    Ofcom, like all regulators, are racketeers.

    They deserve whatever their bent buddies throw at them next.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How exactly was the charge unreasonable?

    The charge, reasonable or not, was applied equally so unless there was some previous agreement about price increases then it cannot be anything other than the price of entry into this very profitable arena and hence reasonable enough for these companies to continue to make money.

    That this payout is again going to be coming from the taxpayers suggest, to me at least, that this is just another bung and associated seats on the board for whomever okayed the idea that ISPs should be allowed to dictate what is a reasonable entry charge rather than plan their businesses to operate within the prevailing environment.

    As has been said here earlier any court punishment should have gone to the court rather than the companies that still managed to make a reasonable profit even whilst complaining that their overheads were unreasonable

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: How exactly was the charge unreasonable?

      AIUI, the process used to increase the annual fees was illegal in the first place. OFCOMs argument was that if they had done it legally, resulting in a smaller increase, then the telcos should only get back the difference. The law disagreed and said that the illegal price increase was illegal, end of.

  7. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Fraud (or reasonable facsimile thereof)

    So the Commentards above would be happy, if they had been over billed by a Telco, that the refund of the over payment should go to the court and not them?

    .

    .

    Thought not.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Fraud (or reasonable facsimile thereof)

      So the Commentards above would be happy, if they had been over billed by a Telco, that the refund of the over payment should go to the court and not them?

      That really is NOT the same thing.

      In this case the telcos bought the bandwidth at the advertised (though possibly excessive) asking price, and paid the price asked. That's not overbilling, just overcharging (yes, the two are different, and yes, it DOES matter).

      Overbilling is what happens when the customer agrees a price but is then billed for more -- in that case the customer should refuse to pay the extra, and should certainly get a refund if the billed amount was paid. The customer has a contract for a sale at an agreed price, and the supplier has broken the contract by charging more.

      The fuss here is because Ofcom increased the prices charged (as it is entitled to do) and the telcos didn't like the amount of the increase. These charges are basically a form of government (in the guise of Ofcom) tax on the use of the specified bandwidth, and tax rates do vary. There is (as far as I can see) no contract here to prescribe the increases that may be applied, so I don't see what business any of this is of the courts.

      Giving away 218 Mega-Quids of taxpayers' money doesn't seem like a very bright idea, especially when the recipients are old enough and ugly enough to do without the charity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fraud (or reasonable facsimile thereof)

        I'm altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it more.

        If a monopoly then the fees may be deemed unfair or illegal in court. As they purchased low and the seller did a baiy and switch the increase is now under scrutiny. Examples would be if only 1 electricity supplier encouraged you to buy from them instead of getting solar because "cheaper " then after your contract upped all the fees. Worse in this case as it's not like the telcos can buy some other air for communications. Lol.

  8. NeilPost Bronze badge

    JLP

    Sharon White - ”Never Knowingly Undersold”.

    Perhaps she needs to hand back her Dame gong, as a £1/5 Bn spaffing on her watch.

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