Vodafone Group moved to replace Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) as its auditor, a decision which appears to be related to legal action involving defunct UK retailer Phones4U.

While the operator did not name Phones4U, in a statement it explained several PwC partners are acting as administrator for a company that filed legal action against Vodafone and others earlier this month. Vodafone noted PwC is “assessed as independent”, but it decided to replace the company due to uncertainty over how the legal challenge may affect its future impartiality.

A tender for a replacement opened today (21 December). Vodafone aims to conclude the process in February 2019 and finalise the details at its AGM, which typically takes place in July.

PwC will remain in place for the current financial year to 31 March 2019, with the new auditor taking over for the year to end-March 2020.

Phones4U appears the most likely candidate as instigator of the relevant legal action. Reports in November indicated the company’s administrators had called on insolvency expert Paul Copley to assess the possibility of lodging a damages claim against UK operators, alleging they colluded to force the company out of the market.

The retailer collapsed in 2014 after losing the backing of all four UK operators, which accounted for 90 per cent of its connections. Vodafone and EE later took over a number of Phones4U stores.