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High Court dismisses Phones 4U’s competition and tort claims


In a lengthy judgment, the High Court, Chancery Division (Roth J), on 10 November 2023 dismissed Phones 4U’s claims that multiple mobile network operators and their parent companies colluded or engaged in tortious wrongdoing to bring about its demise.

Following its entry into administration in 2014, Phones 4U brought proceedings alleging that major UK mobile network operators (MNOs), EE, O2/Telefónica and Vodafone, together with EE’s shareholders, Deutsche Telekom and Orange, had colluded to terminate their contracts to supply Phones 4U with connections to their networks.  It was said that this alleged collusion resulted in Phones 4U’s collapse and entry into administration.  Phones 4U also alleged that Deutsche Telekom and Orange had induced EE to breach its contract with Phones 4U, and had conspired with EE to that end.

The issues of infringement and causation were tried in the Chancery Division before Mr Justice Roth between May and July 2022.  The Court heard evidence from 41 factual witnesses and 4 expert witnesses, and considered significant volumes of contemporaneous documents.

In a detailed judgment, Mr Justice Roth has dismissed the claims in their entirety.  The Judge found that there was no breach of competition law, that each MNO terminated its relationship with Phones 4U as a result of independent commercial decision-making, and that there was no breach of contract by EE and no basis for the tort claims against Deutsche Telekom and Orange.

The judgment [2023] EWHC 2826 (Ch) is available here, and the Court’s summary is available here.

Robert O’Donoghue KC and Hugo Leith (instructed by Covington & Burling LLP) represented Deutsche Telekom.

Marie Demetriou KC, David Scannell KC and David Heaton (instructed by Norton Rose Fulbright LLP) represented Orange at the trial, and Ali Al-Karim assisted in earlier stages of the proceedings.

Mark Hoskins KC, Sarah Abram KC, Matthew Kennedy and Aarushi Sahore (instructed by Mishcon de Reya LLP and Linklaters LLP) represented O2 and Telefónica.