• Collusion claims based on emails are said to put senior executives in the spotlight.

CEO roles highlighted in Phones 4u collusion claims

CEO roles highlighted in Phones 4u collusion claims

Source: UNED Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia [CC BY 2.0]

Reports about the alleged role played by Vodafone and other industry players in the ultimate collapse of retailer Phones 4u in 2014 took on a somewhat murkier form in recent media reports.

Two newspaper articles detailed allegations that are said to support the view that Ronan Dunne, the former Chief Executive (CEO) of Telefónica UK (O2 UK), was a central figure in a secret pact to put the retailer out of business, at a time when efforts were being made by mobile operators to cut out the middlemen in the sale of mobile phone contracts.

The even more sensational claim is that the former CEOs of Telefónica Group and Vodafone Group, César Alierta and Vittorio Colao, formed the pact to pull their mobile phones from Phones 4u — and cut the retailer out of the market. Alierta is said to have made “commitments” to Colao that meant O2 UK “could not continue to supply or negotiate with the retailer”, according to TheSundayTelegraph. It was also claimed that Dunne revealed details of the alleged pact in meetings with senior Phones 4u executives. The source of the newspaper claims appears to be relatively contemporaneous emails sent by senior Phones 4U executives recounting discussions in meetings and calls with the major operators.

Bad news 4U

Vodafone UK and O2 UK, as well as rival EE and its former parents Orange and Deutsche Telekom, are currently facing legal action over their alleged collusion (Vodafonewatch, #171, #172 and passim). The claims of deeper CEO involvement are said to have emerged from the court filings. It has already been reported that evidence cited transcripts of calls by Dunne to his counterparts at rival mobile operators. Vodafone has denied any wrongdoing.