According to an article in the Telegraph on Saturday (12th Aug), (Capita faces injunction threat over ‘pirated’ schools software (telegraph.co.uk)), Capita is threatened with an injunction after allegedly providing SIMS software, which it had sold to private equity for £400m, to schools in Northern Ireland without a licence.
Education Software Solutions (ESS) has asked the High Court to intervene in a row that risks disruption at 1,100 state schools in Northern Ireland.
Capita sold the SIMS software to ESS, set up by the private equity firm Montagu, for £400m in 2020 as part of chief executive Jon Lewis’s efforts to reduce a £1.1bn debt burden.
The outsourcer continued to provide the software to schools in Northern Ireland under licence, but ESS claims that permission expired in March.
Capita disputes this, telling the court it accepted “commercial terms” for an extension of the licence proposed by ESS during a phone call.
ESS wants the High Court to declare that no valid extension was made and have threatened to apply for an injunction forcing the software to be deleted across Northern Ireland.
Around 1,100 Northern Irish state schools could be forced to delete copies of the software provided by Capita, which ESS claims are effectively pirated.
A Capita spokesman said: “Capita wholly rejects the accusations by ESS and intends to robustly defend its position in any ensuing legal proceedings.”
The High Court action comes after the Competition and Markets Authority closed an investigation into ESS in January over alleged abuse of its dominant position.
Schools complained that in 2021 ESS began locking them into three-year contracts for SIMS without giving them notice first, having previously let them renew their deals annually.
Watchdogs accepted an ESS plan to let some schools end their SIMS contracts before the three year period ended.
Ann Pope, the competition watchdog’s senior director of antitrust, said in January that the agreement would “bolster competition”, giving schools “more choice and ESS’s rivals a further chance to compete”.
This latest dispute comes whilst a procurement process for new school management information software for all Northern Ireland schools continues, with the current incumbent being the same SIMS software that is central to this latest action by ESS.