The European Court of Justice looks set to deliver a major set back to mobile phone operators who are trying to reclaim billions of euros of taxes from their purchase of the 3G phone licences in Britain. Five companies – Vodafone, Orange, O2, Germany’s T-Mobile and Hong Kong’s Hutchison – said that almost five billion euros should be returned to them. Their argument was that value-added-tax was included in the price of the 3G licences they bought from the British government in 2000 for 33 billion euros. The UK authorities have asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the case.
It will not publish a decision until later this year but one of the European Union’s top legal advisers – Advocate General Juliane Kokott – has concluded that the price of the licences did not include VAT and the EU courts normally follow the advisers’ advice.