T-Mobile’s £625m damages claim

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Former GSM Gateway operator VIP Communications has said it has filed a huge £625 million damages claim against T-Mobile with the High Court in London.

VIP, now in administration, was axed by T-Mobile in 2004 from selling GSM Gateways. Its damages claim was lodged by solicitors Taylor Wessing with the High Court on February 11, the day after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Ofcom in its case against fellow GSM Gateway operator Floe Telecom.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) had previously called seperate VIP and Floe cases “siamese twins”, except that Floe had not been granted a contract by Vodafone to resell SIM cards in GSM Gateways. VIP had a contract from T-Mobile, it claims.

Ofcom appealed the decision on the grounds it wanted elements of the CAT judgement overturned. VIP’s case was stayed by the CAT until Ofcom’s appeal against the Floe verdict was resolved.

On February 10, the Court of Appeal overturned parts of the original CAT verdict on Floe and upheld Ofcom’s victory. But it made clear the decision was based strictly upon UK contract law, and was not required to consider compatibility issues between UK and EU law on use of CE-stamped GSM Gateways.

VIP maintains it had a contract with T-Mobile, the termination of which breaches EU law. VIP said it will attempt to obtain a “declaration of compatibility” between UK and EU law on the  matter in the High Court as part of its claim. Floe could still revisit its case if UK law was found to be incompatible.

VIP founder Tom McCabe said: “We are supremely confident of winning. We had a contract with T-Mobile, which it has admitted, and which it breached.”

T-Mobile maintained at press it still had not received notice of the claim from the High Court. It is required to respond to the claim within 28 days.

An EC spokesperson for information, society and media told Mobile News: “[EU commissioner] Viviane Reding (pictured) is currently following closely the situation in the UK. It is premature to speculate about possible future action. The Commission expects the legal situation with regard to GSM Gateways in the UK will be clarified once and for all without undue delay by the UK authorities.

“Under EU law, every individual has the right to seek compensation for action of national authorities that could be in violation of EU law.

“This is a right of every citizen. Of course, a precondition for such action is that a violation of EU law can be established.”

VIP’s £625 million claim is based on potential lost earnings and the value obtained from a planned float on the AIM market.

Meanwhile, Carphone Warehouse division Opal Telecom’s strike out action against former GSM Gateway distributor EasyAir’s £13 million damages claim was put on hold by the High Court pending judgement in the Floe case earlier this month.

Mr Justice Lewison said he wanted both parties to refer to the Floe judgement and make written representations to the court in relation EasyAir’s claim.

Mr Justice Lewison is expected to hand dowen his judgement on the strike-out application on February 25.

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