More than 10,000 sign up for Vodafone class action, says litigation fund

Coope said Piper Alderman is currently working on the documents that need to be filed with the Federal Court to start the case

More than 10,000 disgruntled ex-Vodafone customers have signed up for the class action against the telco, according to the company funding the case.

Patrick Coope, managing director at LCM Litigation Fund, which is providing the financial backing for the case, told Computerworld Australia that while it had a policy of not disclosing exact numbers of claimants signed on for the case, it’s “lots of people”.

“We’re not unhappy with numbers,” he said. “It’s in the tens [of thousands] … not in the hundreds.”

Coope confirmed there are more than 10,000 signed up and said the class action is now past a minimum number of claimants and the case will go ahead.

Law firm Piper Alerman announced in February this year that it would serve a class action on Vodafone after years of collecting information about customers’ experiences with the telco via an online survey. Around 23,000 Vodafone customers initially expressed interest in joining the class action.

LCM stepped in after Piper Alderman initially failed to secure funding for the class action.

The class action relates to network problems at Vodafone which dogged the telco in 2010 and 2011, with the telco losing more than 1 million customers since 2010.

Despite network guarantees, the telco is still shedding customers, losing another 108,000 mobile customers in Australia in the quarter ending 31 March.

So far LCM has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the case, according to Coope. This includes legal fees for Piper Alderman and also print and radio advertising costs associated with looking for former Vodafone customers to sign up for the class action.

While Coope said there was no cap on how much the fund would provide, he said it did have a budget that LCM is “comfortable” with, which he would not disclose.

“If the lawyers go through the budget we’ll be unhappy with them, [but] they’re lawyers – they’re used to people being unhappy with them,” Coope said.

LCM provides funding for litigation and also to solvent companies and individuals with commercial legal claims, with capital for cases provided by investors.

Coope said LCM decided to back the class action because it is a litigation funder and “we expect that we will make money out of it”.

LCM’s stake in any winnings will be 33 per cent. It was pegged to receive 15 per cent of winnings if the case settled prior to May.

Its website says it prefers to be involved with cases where the legal claim is at least $2.5 million, but Coope would not disclose how much in damages were being sought for the class action. Tens of millions in compensation was originally being sought.

“It’s currently being worked on. The reason it’s difficult to answer is that there are people with individual circumstances that [have] different damages numbers, but we’re working on trying to fix a figure that applies to everyone and the lawyers are [working] on that at the moment,” Coope said.

If the class action is successful, Coope said the courts would determine how much each claimant will receive.

“The starting point is it would have to be on some sort of pro rata basis so that everyone equally benefits, but whether that’s done on the basis of what they spent or some other figure, I’m not sure,” Coope said.

“Ultimately, the court will have to make that decision.”

Coope said Piper Alderman is currently working on the documents that need to be filed with the Federal Court to start the case, which he expects to happen in weeks.

“I kind of hoped we’d be further advanced, but these things always take longer than you think. But within weeks that should be done and then we need to engage, under the Federal Court rules, with Vodafone before any claim is actually filed, and that will take a handful of weeks,” he said.

To date, Coope said LCM has not had contact with Vodafone. While the case could be settled out of court, Coope said that “doesn’t usually happen”.

“We are confident we’re going to win,” he said.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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