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Sewage Into River

Thames Water to appear at joint hearing as the last of six legal claims issued against UK water companies

Thames Water is the last of six UK water companies to have a legal claim issued against it for allegedly misleading its regulators as to the number of discharges of untreated sewage it made into rivers, lakes, coastal areas, and other waterways causing damage to the environment.

Posted on 30 May 2024

The Thames Water claim is being jointly case-managed with the other five claims already issued by Professor Roberts against Severn Trent Water, Northumbrian Water, United Utilities, Anglian Water and Yorkshire Water. All six Collective Proceedings Orders (CPO) applications will be heard together by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Thames Water supplies services to the Greater London area and parts of Southwest and Southeast England. The case against this company is being brought on behalf of more than 11 million household customers and is estimated to be worth at least £159.1 million if successful.

Anyone who has paid a water bill from Thames Water from April 2020 may be entitled to compensation if the case is successful.

The Thames Water claim will be jointly managed with five claims already issued against Severn Trent Water, Northumbrian Water, United Utilities, Anglian Water and Yorkshire Water. All six Collective Proceedings Orders (CPO) applications will be heard together by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The legal actions, brought by environmental and water consultant Professor Roberts, claim that these water companies have each abused their dominant market position and overcharged consumers as a result.

The number of pollution incidents a company reports to the Environment Agency and Ofwat is a key factor in determining the price the company can charge its customers for the provision of sewerage services. The claims argue that customers have been overcharged as a result of the companies’ underreporting.

Combined, the claims are expected to lead to compensation payments for millions of customers worth over £800 million, if successful.

The next major step is a joint CPO hearing starting on Monday 23 September 2024 scheduled to last up to five days, with an additional week in reserve in January 2025, if needed. During the hearing, the Competition Appeal Tribunal will hear why the six claims are suitable to proceed as “opt-out” collective claims and will be asked to approve Professor Roberts as the Class Representative.

“Opt-out” means individuals do not need to sign up for the claims. Customers affected will automatically be included in the claim against their water company unless they specifically choose to opt-out. Customers will only need to come forward at the compensation stage, if the claims are successful.

Anyone with an interest in the claims, including potential class members, can object to the CPO Applications and/or the authorisation of Professor Roberts as the Class Representative. Anyone wishing to file an objection must write to the Tribunal, stating their reasons for objecting. You may also apply to make written and/or oral submissions at the CPO Hearing. The deadline is 4pm on 11 July 2024.

More information on the nature of all six claims, who is a potential class member and how to object or apply for permission to make submissions is available in the legal notice for the claims.

Professor Carolyn Roberts said:

“In England and Wales there is growing anger about the state in which sewage discharges leave our rivers and beaches. The latest Environment Agency data shows that for 2023 Water Companies have doubled their sewage discharges. This is despite Ofwat’s and the Environment Agency's parallel investigations into sewage treatment works. I hope the legal claims I am bringing on behalf of millions of customers, which now include Thames Water customers, play a part in bringing desperately needed change in the water industry."

“Water companies are required to report accurately pollution incidents as part of their legal duties and responsibilities, but it appears many such incidents go unreported. If these companies had correctly reported the number of pollution incidents, Ofwat would have applied performance penalties, reducing how much these companies could charge their customers. Instead, customers have been, and continue to be, overcharged, and England’s waterways continue to be polluted."

"It is imperative that the millions of billpayers impacted by the water companies’ sewage pollution and alleged overcharging are properly compensated.”

More information about the claims can be found at www.mywatercase.co.uk.

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