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UK MNOs set to claw back millions from the state in inflated license fees

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The UK Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of a challenge by UK mobile operators against an Ofcom decision to triple UK mobile license fees in 2015.

Ofcom decided to hike up the total paid by EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3 from £64.4 million to £199.6 million in September of 2015. This decision seems to have been demanded by the government of that time despite, industry insiders advise, assurances that price rises would be limited in return for 90% geographical coverage commitments.

The total The difference between the two amounts is £135.2 million, which over two years presents a theoretical maximum refund of around £270 million. However Ofcom will presumably insist some kind of increase was in order and furthermore we understand that the ruling still leaves open the option of taking this to the European Supreme Court, so the MNOs shouldn’t start spending the cash yet.

“We’re happy with the outcome as we’ve always supported the view that the trebling of spectrum fees was excessive and would harm network investment,” said an EE spokesperson. “With this judgement we can continue to invest in those network improvements that really make a difference to consumers and businesses across the UK.”

The FT is framing the original decision as a cash grab by the government after it trousered less cash than it thought it would from the 4G auctions, so this would be a bit if a set-back to the Exchequer. Let’s see if they can be bothered to appeal the appeal. You can see the 2015 Ofcom table below and if you you’re into that sort of thing here’s the full ruling.

Ofcom annual mobile license fees


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