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First environmental opt-out competition class action against water companies

Published:

Rhodri Thompson KC, Christopher Brown and Lucinda Cunningham are representing the Proposed Class Representative, Professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant who is seeking to bring claims against six water companies on behalf of over 20 million household customers.

A new opt-out collective proceedings claim has been filed against Severn Trent Water in the Competition Appeal Tribunal on behalf of millions of household consumers who may have been overcharged on their water bills.  This is the first of a series of standalone competition claims set to be issued against a total of six water companies in England. The claims are understood to be the first collective proceedings in the UK with a strong environmental focus and impact.

The claim alleges that Seven Trent Water has abused its monopoly position, contrary to section 18 of the Competition Act 1998, by misleading the Environment Agency and Ofwat as to the number of pollution incidents it caused, being spills and discharges of sewage into waterways such as rivers and lakes.  Water companies are required to report such incidents as part of their legal duties and responsibilities. The number of pollution incidents reported to regulators is an important factor in determining the price which water companies can ultimately charge customers for their services. The claim alleges that household customers have been overcharged as a result of the underreporting, which allowed Severn Trent Water to avoid certain performance penalties which would have otherwise applied.

The claim filed against Severn Trent Water seeks damages of over £330 million to compensate a class of household customers estimated to be as large as 8 million customers.

Rhodri, Christopher and Lucinda are instructed by litigation specialists, Leigh Day.

Useful links

Leigh Day press release

Press coverage includes:

The Guardian

BBC

FT

Independent