back to article Brit telcos deliberately killed Phones 4u, claim admins in £1bn UK High Court sueball

Administrators of UK mobile retailer Phones 4u claim that the company was deliberately collapsed by a cartel of British telcos – although an iPad with key evidence "cannot now be found", according to the High Court. The eye-opening allegations appeared in a 17 July judgment in the High Court as Phones 4u's administrators, PwC …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The full trial is not due to take place before mid-2022 "at the earliest", in the judge's words

    So someone rich is bankrolling a lot of expensive lawyers for several years.

    1. Greybearded old scrote

      No, we are.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      PWC are the administrators. I assume they are funding it and I assume they think they can win.

      1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

        They must think they have a pretty good case then. Administrators rarely do anything unless they think there's a solid chance of getting money out of it.

  2. Greybearded old scrote
    Facepalm

    Eye-opening claim

    More like eye-watering claim.

    I always laugh until I cry when somebody says they only have one copy.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Eye-opening claim

      I don't understand how people don't make copies.

      It's like when you're closing your car boot you check your keys are in your pocket rather than about to be locked in.

      If you have something important - just email it to yourself, or print it, or put it on Google Drive, or something.

      Are these the people who are constantly locking their keys in their car?

      ( Image is of me checking my keys, twice )

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Eye-opening claim

        The clever ones don't buy cars with self locking doors...tbh thought they died out decades ago.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Eye-opening claim

          That's what I'd thought too.

          My car won't let us lock it if the key is inside ( with another key obviously). Which is rather a sensible thing. Far too easy to check you've got your key on you, but forget your OH has left their key inside vehicle.

          1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

            Re: Eye-opening claim

            Ah, my car doesn't have those magical modern keys - my car also predates the key and the remote central locking fob being the same unit.

        2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Eye-opening claim

          It's the boot that's the problem. Close the boot and it locks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Close the boot and it locks

            Mine doesn't if you leave the (keyless entry) fob in it.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Eye-opening claim

            Mine doesn't. If the keys are local to it ( and I guess that includes inside) the boot won't lock. And even on our older car (2010 Peugeot 107), it has to be locked with the car. it can't just lock on its own.

            1. MyffyW Silver badge

              Re: Eye-opening claim

              I had the cutest little MGF once that (myriad mechanical defects aside) routinely swallowed my keys into it's boot. Whereupon I would have the opportunity to try public transport, or try walking 5 miles in inappropriate footwear, or finding out which of my friends with cars would come and pick me up. Oh the joys! But I always had a backup (sort of).

      2. oiseau Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Eye-opening claim

        ... put it on Google Drive

        Really?

        O.

        1. Guido Esperanto

          Re: Eye-opening claim

          We laugh anecdotally about google and professionally would never advise people back their stuff up to their cloud.

          That said a backup is a backup. It's simply a case of how available to you (and to others) and item is.

        2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Eye-opening claim

          Definitely. Anything is better than nothing.

          I'd also trust Google Drive to be more reliable than a USB key.

      3. Caver_Dave
        Thumb Up

        Re: Eye-opening claim

        I had a different, but similar, experience last week. I ordered a robot, due to claims on the manufacturing companies website and the resellers, that it did exactly what I wanted. When it arrived, it didn't perform the advertised function. I took a copy of the websites before I started the refund process. Within hours both websites were changed and the companies called me a liar. I sent the website images to them and the money is now back in my bank!

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Eye-opening claim

          I wish I'd done that when I got my British gas boiler installation last year. Website said "First Service free". On installation they made it clear that the first 12 month service was chargeable. On challenge they said "We serviced it when we installed it". Which is not how I'd define a service, nor the engineer (not theirs) who we did pay to do it, last month.

          But I couldn't push it further - because when I went to the website it no longer said that.

  3. Greybearded old scrote

    Supposed to give a warning

    "Although Swantee quietly recorded Dunne," wouldn't that make it inadmissible anyway?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Supposed to give a warning

      In UK law secret recordings are a bit of a grey area. At least as I understand it from legal programs I've heard, being no lawyer. Mostly the police can't do it, but private individuals can - even though they're legally supposed to ask for permissionto record - it may still be admissable, even if they didn't. Although I suspect the real answer is: It's complicated.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Supposed to give a warning

        There's a case in the High Court at the moment involving the Barclay family (Not the bank) which hinges on secret recordings. My understanding is that the recordings haven't been thrown out. (Yet...) For more details, Private Eye is your friend.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Supposed to give a warning

        No. One party to the conversation must be aware of the recording. You can't secretly record a conversation between two third parties, but it is fine to record a conversation you are participating in.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Supposed to give a warning

        Dashcams are recordings in which the other party is not forewarned, and after nasty accidents the police nowadays appeal for dashcam recordings. So the police presumably think it is legal.

        1. Craig 2

          Re: Supposed to give a warning

          Cars accidents are generally in a public place so fair game. Secretly recording conversations where you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy could be a different matter.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Supposed to give a warning

          Interestingly, there is now a way to report traffic offences caught on dashcam and upload the video directly to the police. I've done this once. The police then responded by asking me the car's reg. number as a confirmation that I'd witnessed the event. Which I didn't know, as I'd been driving at the time and left it to the dashcam to do the recording. And by then I'd lost the original ( or I could have read the reg number off it and given it to them). But they did still pay the driver a visit and he was prosecuted for a related offence as a consequence.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Supposed to give a warning

      The UK principle is "evidence is evidence" no matter how obtained; any illegality is a separate issue.

      However proving that something such as a recording or a transcript is indeed evidential, not simply faked, can be challenging.

      It has always seemed odd to me that the American system would treat evidence which actually proves guilt as inadmissible due to the way it was obtained.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Supposed to give a warning

        "It has always seemed odd to me that the American system would treat evidence which actually proves guilt as inadmissible due to the way it was obtained."

        The concept does sound problematic, but it also provides a safeguard against misconduct by the more powerful party in a criminal investigation. If a policing organization commits a crime, they may not be held to account. The legal system is connected to them, other courts may not have jurisdiction, and if the defendant doesn't have the resources to pursue them or a sufficiently interested third party to foot the bills, the police get off for their crime. By making it clear that their crime cannot pay, it reduces the need for that. Of course, it also makes it harder to convict criminals, so there are pros and cons to either approach.

      2. onemark03

        Inadmissable Evidence

        Not in Germany.

        You cannot make a sound or photographic recording of an illegal act unless you have police permission or other official permission to do it. Any recordings of such acts made without such permission are not admissible in court as evidence.

        This is why many neighbourhood feuds literally fester on for years. It is also why it is illegal to record telephone conversations in Germany subject to the above conditions.

        Officially it has something about breaching the perpetrator's right of informational self-determination or some shit. Personally, I suspect it has more to do with the constitutional right not to incriminate oneself. But that's just my personal opinion.

  4. Flak

    Another 'get out the popcorn' dispute

    Fact is often stranger than fiction - and this could turn out to be one of those stories unfolding in front of our eyes with interesting revelations, claims and counterclaims, etc.

  5. Goldmember

    A few things

    1. How many mobile devices will still be around which have data from 2014? Most devices would surely have been decommissioned or wiped by now.

    2. Why would past employees still have company data from 2014 on their personal devices? That would surely be a breach of data protection laws

    3. Why oh why would you keep such a significant recording on a single, old device and not copy it to other places? At least by sending yourself an email or backing up on to a USB stick.

    It would make sense that shady dealings led to the demise of P4U, but I should imagine it would be incredibly difficult to prove. Especially after so much time has passed.

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: A few things

      I'm looking at a phone dating from 2012 right now. Yes it was replaced, but it's still here. I plugged it into power a few days ago looking for something else, and it still works, except it doesn't have a SIM anymore, the SIM is in a newer phone. Why would I wipe it? It's an emergency backup phone, in case the current phone has a problem. So, yes, there could well be older phones still around.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: A few things

        > Why would I wipe it? It's an emergency backup phone, in case the current phone has a problem. So, yes, there could well be older phones still around.

        I'm completely the opposite - once I've bought a new shiny and finished configuring it, I dig the packaging for the old device out and slap it onto Ebay.

        It helps to offset the cost of the new device, reduces clutter, and in the event of anything going wrong, I'd rather just buy a replacement - if I need something cheap and in a hurry, there's always places like CEX.

        On the other hand, once I find something which Just Works, I tend to hang onto it for years, and then spend months bemoaning that there's nothing suitable to replace it.

        Such as my 160gb iPod Classic, which I begrudgingly "upgraded" to a 128gb iPhone SE when the HDD developed a click of doom. That worked well for over a decade, and I still miss the physical buttons, dammit!

        (Though I suppose technically, the iPhone does now act as a backup for my main phone...)

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: A few things

          ""once I've bought a new shiny and finished configuring it, I dig the packaging for the old device out and slap it onto Ebay. It helps to offset the cost of the new device, reduces clutter, and in the event of anything going wrong, I'd rather just buy a replacement"

          In my case, if I'm replacing something, it's likely in one of a few conditions:

          1. It's broken. Physically. Bad enough that I can't repair it. Resale value next to zero.

          2. It has gotten so old that someone might want it, but they won't find it. I've waited months hoping that someone would buy old devices, and now I try to be more realistic about what it's worth, usually next to zero.

          For case 2, if I can't sell it but it continues to work, I try to find someone who can use it. I have found several places that would like phones that still are capable of making calls, so I can donate those. Sometimes, I can do the same with laptops. For other devices, I keep them around in case I need a disposable device or a victim for potentially destructive experimentation; after all, it's better to reuse when possible.

          I have an old phone from 2012 which was not reliable enough for the place I donate phones to. It has been a potential casualty in a number of tests so far. Still works, well sort of. If I need a cheap device that might suffer during the experience, I'll draft that into service rather than paying for something new.

      2. Goldmember

        Re: A few things

        "Why would I wipe it? It's an emergency backup phone, in case the current phone has a problem."

        I have a few old phones knocking around as well, which can be used for backups or dev phones. But once they get to 3 or 4 years old, they stop receiving security updates. A six year old Android phone will be a pretty substantial security risk. It's a good idea to do a factory reset of them once they get replaced to wipe off your main Dropbox/ Google/ MS accounts and documents, then set up throwaway accounts for them. They can then be used in a pinch, but there won't be anything too sensitive to lose if they become compromised.

    2. FatGerman

      Re: A few things

      >> 1. How many mobile devices will still be around which have data from 2014?

      I'm using one to write this. Don't assume everybody upgrades on a regular basis, least of all someone who works for a reseller.

      >> 2. Why would past employees still have company data from 2014 on their personal devices? That would surely be a breach of data protection laws

      Because they were keeping it because they thought it would come in handy as evidence of illegal activity. Most people would regard that as a justified breaking of the data protection law, even if they understood that law, which most people don't.

      >> 3. Why oh why would you keep such a significant recording on a single, old device and not copy it to other places? At least by sending yourself an email or backing up on to a USB stick.

      Because you're a businessman, not a techie, and don't even understand what a backup is, let alone bother to ever make one.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: A few things

        >> 2. Why would past employees still have company data from 2014 on their personal devices? That would surely be a breach of data protection laws

        Data Protection doesn't say anything explicit about what you can/can't keep or for how long. The general thrust is that what & how long you keep something must be appropriate & proportionate.

        What's appropriate & proportionate? That's for a judge and/or jury to decide.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: A few things

          If you're aware of it being evidence of something illegal you might have an obligation to preserve it.

          I never got the impression that "the dog ate my homework" would have gone down well with a judge.

          1. stiine Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: A few things

            Do you still have the dog?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A few things

      iCloud perhaps ?

      1. Open Sauce

        Re: A few things

        ilol'ed

  6. vishal vashisht

    Equity Partners looking for another payout

    as we've seen time and time again, private equity buying up high street stores, selling the property, taking out massive loans thus loading previously perfectly profitable ventures with MASSIVE loan and rent payments have decimated the high street...NOT Amazon. Every store having issues can be traced to a PE firm loading it up with rent and loans.

    Now we have a case where the Private Equity owners got screwed by their own actions because they thought they could buy it up, sell off the shops, load up on debt and sell it after paying themselves massive dividends and "management fees" but probably left it a "little late" because they tend to be useless at actually running a store. SO this time they actually seem to have lost money, which is why they've thrown their toys out of the pram like little kids.

    now they're screaming that the telco's are at fault and not their own greed

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Equity Partners looking for another payout

      >>>> Every store having issues can be traced to a PE firm loading it up with rent and loans.

      Bollocks! Some retailers are in that position because of private equity thievery. Others are suffering from self-inflicted wounds - M&S, WH Smug, House of Fraser, John Lewis, etc.

      Oh and the places where you buy stuff are called shops, not stores.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Equity Partners looking for another payout

        Stores are for storing. Or so my old SQMS used to say.

  7. AlanSh

    How old?

    2014 - does anyone still have phones from 6 years ago that can be handed over 'for forensic analysis'?

    Alan

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: How old?

      Yes, I can probably find a few.

      There won't be anything on them of course!

      I really must have a clear out some time.

    2. Greybearded old scrote

      Re: How old?

      Me, I'm still using it.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: How old?

      I'm still using an iPhone 6+ as a secondary phone, and an iPad Air 2 as my daily driver. Not quite 6 years old, but close.

    4. awavey
      Paris Hilton

      Re: How old?

      Several,I've got one that's 10 years old,just because they are too knackered to sell on and I cant abide just throwing something out that cost me 500-700 quid to purchase ultimately, keep meaning to turn them into media players to replace my ancient iPods (yes kept those too)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes P4U

    I remember looking at a couple of phones in one of their shops. They were not really interested in me just upgrading my device on my existing deal (out of contract). There was a lot of pressure to start a new contract with Vodafone. At the time, Vodafone was a no signal area where I lived at the time (since rectified).

    I left and went to CPW who tried to flog me a Samsung phone despite me making it clear that I didn't want a Samsung phone and that my existing HTC device was fine.

    Neither of them got a sale. I started buying secondhand iPhones from pawn dealers. That continues today.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes P4U

      I went into Phones 4 U once. Within the space of 10 minutes, I had three salespeople trying to sell me new contracts. I was looking to upgrade my phone, but none of them even checked what I wanted.. I don't like pressure sales, and I tend to avoid any company that really tries to pressure me me into buying something. I did want a new phone. I didn't necessarily want to upgrade on my current contract, but wasn't opposed to the idea either. I like to decide on what hardware I want first, then see what contracts I can get with that hardware. The Salesdroids wouldn't take a polite "I want to look around" for an answer and after the third one pounced on me in ten minutes, I shouted "Fuck Off, leave me alone" and stormed out the shop.

      Went straight into the Carphone Warehouse up the road/ A saleswoman came up to me, listened to me when I said I wanted to look around a bit before I made up my mind. She responded, "Cool, I'll be over here if you need anything" and went to do some paperwork at a terminal. I tried a few phones, found one I liked, and went back to her. A while later, I walked out the store, having signed up for a new contract, with a new phone in my sweaty hands..

      I'd like to see us go back to that more relaxed style of sales. Give the customer what they want at a reasonable price, without trying to bundle in potentially expensive extras (such as extended warranties and gold plated HDMI cables), and people will go away happy, and hopefully come back next time they want something,

      Doubt it will happen though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah yes P4U

        Similar experience to me. I went in to look at a specific phone, got taken upstairs to an area with desks and was submitted to a very long attempt at hard selling (I only let it go in because it was raining outside, was due to meet someone in an hour and needed someone to shelter).

        None of the discussions involved the phone I said I was interested in and all the contracts were for much more than the one I currently had (not through them).

        I vowed there and then to never enter one of their stores again and told everyone I knew of the experience. Perhaps they should take action against me for damaging their business?

      2. osakajin Bronze badge

        Re: Ah yes P4U

        Perhaps don't bother with shops? I pretty much only ever do food shopping and a little bit for building products. Not interested in shops anymore especially with the totally retarded and ineffective "social distancing" bullshit.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes P4U

        "Within the space of 10 minutes"

        I wouldn't have stayed there so long.

        I'm always prepared to walk out on poor service and high pressure sales count as -ve service in my view. I've also walked out for the opposite reason; after being left alone for an unreasonable period of time I walked to the dealership across the road and bought a new car there instead.

      4. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes P4U

        It won't happen while there are idiots who think you drive sales by putting staff under performance targets. As if pressure on staff somehow creates greater demand from the public, rather than all the competing firms becoming more and more aggressive in trying to outsell each other and risking killing off the market by making the buyers more and more averse.

  9. Cederic Silver badge

    not happy with this

    So all of my PCs and phones could be handed to an IT forensics firm because a company I worked for several years ago is being sued?

    That doesn't feel right to me.

    Anyway, time to go and make sure I've wiped any devices I'm not currently using..

  10. wolfetone

    I do remember that EE and Vodafone pulled out, P4U went bump, the next day EE and Vodafone split P4U's stores between them.

    You don't need an iPad to see how dodgy that looked.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not round here - it was replaced by a rather nice coffee shop ;-)

  11. TeeCee Gold badge

    Aha. The "The dog ate my homework" strategy.

    I'm surprised they didn't get laughed out of court for trying that one.

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