Big brands accused of 254 million cases of bumping up prices for UK consumers
Twelve consumer lawsuits that have been filed with the specialist competition court could leave every adult in the UK owed money, and eligible for compensation from multiple claims.
These cases have been filed on behalf of UK consumers accusing big brands like Amazon, Apple, BT, Facebook, Google, Mastercard and Sony PlayStation of breaching competition law and ripping off customers – see table 1.
If won, these claims could leave UK consumers owed up to £36 billion – see chart 1. Yet, our survey of UK consumers found 74% of people on average have never heard of most of these big claims and 25% have no idea what a group claim is. Only a quarter of the population said they were very familiar with collective legal actions in the UK – see chart 2.
Our analysis of these claims shows that every adult in the UK may be entitled to money back from five different group claims on average. We also know from our survey that 50% of people spend money with six or more of the 30 top brands across key consumer sectors so as more lawsuits are filed the payout for individual consumers is likely to grow.
Alex Neill, co-founder of Consumer Voice, said:
‘All too often consumers are being taken for a ride by big businesses they use on a daily basis. Rule-breaking businesses owe an eye-watering amount of money to consumers, yet most people aren’t aware.’
‘A lack of knowledge about group claims, fears about scams and a perception that the process will be complicated, all put people off claiming. These claims seek to level the playing field and help people get back what they’re owed. That’s why we want to ensure people who have been ripped off are confident and ready to step forward when these cases are won.’
Table 1 – consumer lawsuits filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal
|Claim||Consumers affected||Potential payout||Certified|
|Apple App Store||19,600,000||£1,500,000,000||Yes|
|Google Play Store||19,500,000||£920,000,000||Yes|
|SE and SW trains||2,890,000||£93,000,000||Yes|
1 There are two competing Amazon ‘buy box’ claims following the filing of a second similar claim earlier this month. A decision about which claim will proceed is yet to be made. We have based our data on the first claim filed as this is currently the only claim published on the Competition Appeal Tribunal website.
How much money are people owed?
How much people are owed will vary depending on their circumstances. In the biggest consumer claim in UK legal history, you could be owed £300 for simply buying goods and services from shops and supermarkets accepting Mastercard over a 16-year period from 1992 to 2008.
You could be in line for a up to £500 payout if you were a BT landline customer between October 2015 and April 2018, or if you had a BT landline and had broadband separately from October 2015 until today. If you owned a Sony PlayStation anytime from August 2016 you could be owed up to £560.
Global chip manufacturer, Qualcomm, is accused of overcharging for its smartphone technology, which could leave you owed up to £30 if you’ve owned an Apple or Samsung smartphone since 1 October 2015.
When will people be paid what they’re owed?
The legal process of getting back what is owed to consumers takes time. Seven of the 12 claims have been given the green light by the Competition Appeal Tribunal to go to trial, which is the signal that the court thinks there is a case to answer. Five are awaiting certification.
Keeping track of these claims as they progress isn’t easy for consumers to manage. And we know from our research that even when people know they are eligible for compensation they all too often don’t claim it because they think it might be too complicated or time consuming.
This is why our new service was set up. Consumer Voice helps people easily track the progress of each claim and makes the process easy, quick and simple to work out if you’re eligible to claim.
Support us on our mission to help consumers get back the money they’re owed from rule-breaking businesses by signing up to Consumer Voice.
Chart 2 – how familiar UK consumer are with collective legal actions in the UK
What are group claims?
It isn’t always obvious when you’ve been ripped off by the companies you deal with, and this can make it impossible to stand up to big businesses. That’s why the law in the UK offers another route to accessing justice via a group claim or collective action.
This is where a legal claim is brought on behalf of a group of people who have all experienced a similar loss as a result of the law being broken. Law firms have to bring these group claims to a court or tribunal to get compensation for consumers.
These claims can either be brought by one individual representing others (where consumers can ‘opt out’ of the claim if they want to) or by a number of individuals coming together to take the claim as a single group (known as an ‘opt in’ claim).
Opt out claims can only be filed in cases concerning breaches in competition law. For example, an illegal cartel of businesses who cheat customers by agreeing not to compete, or companies that abuse their dominant market position by behaving in a way that will limit competition or harm consumers (e.g. by charging higher prices than they would in a competitive market).
Any other breaches in consumer laws would need to be filed as an opt-in claim – this is where court proceedings are issued for each individual in a claim and these are managed collectively. One of the largest consumer group collective actions of this kind is the VW diesel emissions claim in which claimants received a combined £193 million in an out-of-court settlement.
Who we are and our research
Consumer Voice is free for consumers to use, independent and we tell consumers when the companies they buy from have broken the law. We help people easily work out whether they’re entitled to compensation and how to claim.
Our analysis of consumer harm is based on 12 consumer opt-out claims currently filed with the Competition and Appeal Tribunal.
- We identified cases using the case type filter ‘Section 47B Competition Act 1998 (Collective Proceedings)’. We excluded cases that were business to business claims and claims that didn’t quantify consumer harm.
- We have not featured opt-in claims in our analysis – however, we do feature one opt-in claim against Jaguar Land Rover on our website.
- The total number of people estimated to be affected by all 12 claims adds up to 253,532,000. As there are only 51,683,029 UK adults aged 20 and over (ONS 2021 population data) this leaves everyone entitled to claim against an average of five claims.
- Our analysis of consumer awareness and experience of collective actions is based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,006 UK consumers in November 2022.
Find out more about who we are and why we set up Consumer Voice.
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