Deutsche Telekom AG may win dismissal of an appeals case by the founders of Telegate AG seeking 612 million euros ($829 million) over claims the phone company overcharged for directory data, a judge said.
Klaus Harisch and Peter Wuensch have little chance to overturn a lower court ruling from last year that denied them compensation, Presiding Judge Juergen Kuehnen said at a hearing today. The assessment of the appellate court in Dusseldorf, Germany is preliminary and could still change after deliberations, he said.
While Deutsche Telekom may have misused its market position by overpricing the data, the Telegate founders’ damages claim isn’t covered by antitrust laws that prohibit that, the judge said.
“The founders didn’t buy the data, only Telegate did,” Kuehnen said. “Antitrust rules only protect consumers or buyers, not shareholders of the buyers.”
Deutsche Telekom has faced lawsuits for a decade filed by directory-service providers who said they were being charged too much for the data that Germany’s former phone monopoly was required by law to provide. The country’s top civil court in 2012 backed two lower court rulings requiring Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom to pay back a combined 97.2 million euros in overcharged fees and legal costs.
The Telegate founders argue the value of their shares had declined because Deutsche Telekom overcharged them. Georg Jochum, a lawyer for the founders, said after the hearing he wouldn’t comment on the case before the court has issued its ruling.
Telegate, majority owned by Italy’s Seat Pagine Gialle SpA, had argued that Deutsche Telekom’s overcharging curbed profits. Harisch and Wuensch have said they had to sell their stakes for a lower value because of Deutsche Telekom’s practice.
While the founders can’t rely on antitrust law, the company can as it is a competitor of Deutsche Telekom and directly affected, the judge said today. A Telegate lawsuit seeking 86 million euros that was also rejected by a lower court is still pending on appeal.