BSkyB and EDS face £45m legal bill over CRM system

The combined legal costs of a dispute between British Sky Broadcasting and EDS over a customer relationship management system are expected to approach £45m - almost as much as the original £48m price of the project.

The combined legal costs of a dispute between British Sky Broadcasting and EDS over a customer relationship management system are expected to approach £45m - almost as much as the original £48m price of the project.

On a single day at the High Court last week more than 20 people occupied the legal benches of both sides, including three Queen's counsels.

There were more than 700 box files of material, such as expert reports, contracts, EDS internal standards and witness statements, in the court room. The case is expected to last more than six months.

Stephen Castell, an expert witness in IT litigation, who is not involved in the BSkyB case, said he was "astonished" at the size of the legal costs, which are among the highest in any IT-related dispute.

Both sides face logistical difficulties in fighting the case. The project dates back about seven years and some of the witnesses no longer work for BSkyB or EDS and are ­being flown in from various parts of the world.

BSkyB filed a claim against EDS in August 2004, but it has taken more than two years for the case to reach the High Court. It began this month with BSkyB outlining its claim against EDS for £709m, part of which is compensation for alleged lost ­benefits.

"This is a case about deceit," said QC Mark Howard opening the case for BSkyB. "Sky allege that, during the course of a competitive tender, EDS represented they had the resources, proven technology, and methodology to enable them to deliver the solution within a certain timescale and cost.

"The representations are alleged to have been made dishonestly in order to win the business."

In EDS's opening defence, QC Mark Barnes said, "We suggest it is an artificial claim designed to overcome the difficulties that Sky face under their contracts and to allow them to claim absurd and extravagant amounts of damages." He said the "main problem with this project was that it was wholly unspecified".

"Sky knew it wanted a super-dooper CRM system but had little more idea of what it wanted or needed."

EDS strongly denies deceit, dishonesty, or misrepresentation.

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