Phones

2,400 Phones 4U staff lose their jobs as networks circle

Roughly half of Phones 4U's staff are to be laid off, while EE, Vodafone and Dixons Carphone snap up other stores.

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Julius Kielaitis/Shutterstock

2,400 Phones 4U staff are to lose their jobs as 362 stores close, while the networks step in to pick over the remains of the high street retail chain.

Sadly 1,697 staff will be laid off immediately. 720 workers keep their jobs for the moment to assist with the process of closing stores before they're made redundant.

Phones 4U was holed below the waterline by the UK mobile networks pulling their phones and contracts from the high street chain. Three and O2 had already cancelled their contracts when Vodafone pulled out this month, quickly followed by EE just over a week ago.

With no network deals to offer, Phones 4U announced it was closing its doors last Monday, cancelling recent orders and going into administration. Administrators PWC were called in by Phones 4U's owners, private equity firm BC Partners, to see if the company could survive. Before its current problems, Phones 4U owned 560 stores and 160 concession outlets in other shops.

Some jobs have been saved by the networks buying Phones 4U branches and keeping on staff. Dixons Carphone, the newly-merged owner of Currys and PC World with Carphone Warehouse, almost immediately took on the 800 staff working at the concession stands within their shops. Vodafone plans to buy 140 branches and save 887 jobs, and EE is forking out £2.5 million for 58 shops, saving 359 jobs.

While that's certainly welcome news for the 2,000 or so workers in question, it's galling that the very networks which torpedoed the business are now picking over the wreckage. The founder of Phones 4U, John Caudwell, has described the networks' behaviour as "astonishingly ruthless."

The networks have been looking closely at their relationship with third parties as they look to cut costs, their profits squeezed by factors including EU limits on roaming and call completion charges; instant messaging and other online communication eating into revenue from calls and texts; and a generally competitive market.

Vodafone, singled out for criticism by Phones 4U's owners, blamed the store's failure to reach viable terms and denied behaving "inappropriately."

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