29 million smartphone users in the UK could be entitled to compensation after being overcharged for their smartphone purchases, Which? has said.
The consumer rights group is currently undergoing a legal battle with chipmaker Qualcomm which could see smartphone users in the UK owed £480 million.
Which? claims that the American firm has breached competition law in the UK by abusing its dominance in the patent-licensing and chipset markets.
Qualcomm’s technology can be found in a number of leading brands, including Apple and Samsung.
According to Which?, the firm is able to inflate the fees it charges manufacturers, which the consumer is forced to bear in the form of increased handset prices.
Damages are being sought for all affected Apple and Samsung smartphones purchased since October 1, 2015, which could result in an average payout of around £17 for each person.
“We believe Qualcomm’s practices are anti-competitive and have so far taken around £480 million from UK consumers’ pockets – this needs to stop,” said Anabel Hoult, chief executive of Which?.
“We are sending a clear warning that if companies like Qualcomm indulge in manipulative practices which harm consumers, Which? is prepared to take action.
“If Qualcomm has abused its market power it must be held to account.
“Without Which? bringing this claim on behalf of millions of affected UK consumers, it would simply not be realistic for people to seek damages from the company on an individual basis – that’s why it’s so important that consumers can come together and claim the redress they are entitled to.”
Which?’s claim will state that Qualcomm refuses to license its patents to other competing chipset manufacturers, and refuses to supply chipsets to smartphone manufacturers unless companies obtain a separate licence and pay substantial royalties.
The consumer group will need permission from the Competition Appeal Tribunal to act as class representative for any chance of compensation, unless the firm agrees a settlement before.
Qualcomm has previously been investigated by competition authorities in the US, Canada, and the European Commission.