One2One and BT Cellnet take Government to court

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The Independent Online

One2One and BT Cellnet yesterday took the Government to court over the Department of Trade and Industry's decision to allow different payment dates for last spring's third-generation mobile licence auction, which raised £22.5bn.

One2One and BT Cellnet yesterday took the Government to court over the Department of Trade and Industry's decision to allow different payment dates for last spring's third-generation mobile licence auction, which raised £22.5bn.

One2One is seeking compensation of £85m. BT is seeking a similar amount. A BT spokeswoman said: "It's effectively the interest we would have gained had we been able to postpone our payment as Vodafone did."

BT Cellnet and One2One paid just over £4bn each on 9 May for their licences. Orange and Vodafone did not pay their respective licence fees of £4bn and £6bn until 31 August. Vodafone inherited Orange when it acquired Mannesman in February. The UK companies were given leave to postpone their payments until Orange was demerged, a process that resulted in France Telecom acquiring the company.

A DTI spokeswoman said: "The Government is satisfied that the auction rules were fair [The companies] knew what the rules were when the auction started. They're now trying to change the rules after the event." A High Court ruling is expected next week.

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