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BT and One2One lose 3G court battle again

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BT and One2One have lost in their second attempt to sue the government for £85 million a piece for "lost" interest on 3G payments.

A High Court appeal in June (stemming from a decision against them made a year ago) made its decision today and that was: Stop bloody whingeing and get on with it (or words to that effect).

It all began when the two companies paid the government in May last year for the ludicrously expensive 3G licences. BT paid £4.03 billion and One2One (owned by Deutsche Telekom) £4 billion. However Vodafone and Orange did not pay their £6 billion and £4.1 billion respectively until three months later.

Why? Because Vodafone was in the course of buying German company Mannesmann, which happened to own Orange. Part of the deal for allowing the sale to go through was that Vodafone would sell Orange to someone else. It did - to France Telecom.

When everything was settled, the two coughed up, but BT and One2One felt hard done by to the tune of £1 million a day in interest on their payments. The legal angle was that the government had given the others an unfair competitive advantage.

This argument was thrown out the High Court in October 2000. An appeal was held July this year and decided today against allowing the companies to take the case to the House of Lords. Of course BT and One2One have now vowed to appeal against this by going to the Law Lords.

Hopefully the Law Lords will tell them to bugger off as well, but then when £85 million is potentially at stake, you can't blame them for pushing it. £85 million buys quite a lot of legal process. ®

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