Augusta Ventures funds Which? in landmark collective action against Qualcomm

Augusta Ventures, the largest litigation and dispute funding institution in the UK by volume of cases, has provided financing to help the Consumers’ Association (known as Which?) launch an opt-out collective claim, litigated by Hausfeld, against Qualcomm, Inc. for over £480 million, on behalf of a class of around 29 million UK consumers.

Which? is alleging that Qualcomm abuses its dominance in the markets for smartphone chipsets and standard essential patents, the result of which is that Qualcomm is able to overcharge smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung for its technology.  Which? says that those extra costs, which are calculated as a percentage of the price of phone handsets, have been passed on to UK purchasers of Apple and Samsung smartphones.

Which?’s claim will automatically include compensation claims for consumers who had purchased particular models of Apple or Samsung smartphones, either direct from the manufacturer, from a network operator or smartphone retailer, since 1 October 2015.

Robert Hanna, Managing Director of Augusta Ventures, said:

“This claim is about seeking redress for the millions of consumers who are the ultimate victims of Qualcomm’s anticompetitive conduct.  We are very pleased to be working with Which? in their first claim utilising the opt-out regime introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.”  

Background on the legal case

Which?’s claim will state that Qualcomm employs two harmful and unlawful practices:

  • It refuses to license its patents to other competing chipset manufacturers and,
  • it refuses to supply chipsets to smartphone manufacturers, such as Apple and Samsung, unless those companies obtain a separate licence and pay substantial royalties to Qualcomm.

It is argued that these abuses enable Qualcomm to charge Apple and Samsung higher fees for the licences for its patents, than if Qualcomm behaved lawfully.  Qualcomm’s royalties are charged as a percentage of the price of smartphones and which have to be paid by  smartphone manufacturers even when they don’t use Qualcomm’s chipsets.

Which? says that the higher costs are ultimately passed on to consumers and Which? will attempt to recover these under the collective regime which allows Which? to apply to pursue a claim for an aggregate award of damages on behalf of affected UK consumers.

Now the case has been filed, the next step will be for Which? to obtain permission from the Competition Appeal Tribunal to serve proceedings on Qualcomm.  If granted, the Tribunal will then decide whether or not Which? can act as the class representative and whether the claim can proceed to trial.

Hausfeld & Co LLP are supported by a counsel team at Monckton Chambers (Jon Turner QC, Anneli Howard, Michael Armitage and Ciar McAndrew).  Which?’s economic experts are Oxera Consulting LLP and the claim is funded by Augusta Ventures.

About Augusta Ventures 

– Augusta is the largest litigation and dispute funding institution in the UK by # cases. Augusta’s scale enables us to make decisions in market-leading timeframes and fund cases of any size. 

– Augusta is organised into a series of specialist practice groups: Arbitration, Class/Group Action, Competition, and Consumer Litigation, and sectors including Financial Services and Construction & Energy. 

– At the beginning of 2021, with over £300m of capital, Augusta had funded over 240 claims with a market leading ratio of over 70% 

– Augusta has offices in the UK, Australia and Canada. 

About Which? 

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone.  

About Hausfeld 

Hausfeld & Co LLP, a leading international law firm with offices in Europe and the US, specialises in claimant litigation and collective redress.  The firm filed the first standalone opt-out collective actions on behalf of rail passengers in 2019 and is leading an opt-out action against six banks over their participation in unlawful price-fixing of the foreign exchange currency markets.  Hausfeld leads on Trucks cartel claims in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. It has acted on some of the most complex damages claims of the last decade: on the ‘Interchange Fee’ litigation against Visa and Mastercard and the Air Cargo litigation against British Airways and 13 other airlines.  It is also presently instructed in ‘Google Shopping’ claims on behalf of price comparison websites against Google and in claims against Marriott International, YouTube and Facebook in data breach and privacy litigation.

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