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United Utilities and five other water companies accused of underreporting sewage spillages and discharges

A consumer legal claim has been filed against five of six UK water companies who are accused of underreporting sewage pollution and overcharging customers as a result. 

The claim against United Utilities is one of six claims against water companies who are all accused of breaching environmental laws by underreporting the number of sewage spills and discharges into UK waterways. 

Have you been overcharged for your water bill? 

United Utilities customers may be entitled to compensation if they paid for a water bill from April 2020. 

Claims have also been made against Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water and Yorkshire Water. A claim against Thames Water is expected to be filed in coming months.

Anyone who has paid for a water bill to one or more of these five water companies from April 2020 (or from April 2017 for Severn Trent Water) could be entitled to compensation if the cases are won. 

United Utilities accused of underreporting sewage pollution

United Utilities is accused of not complying with environmental laws and regulators’ reporting responsibilities. This could leave millions of customers in the Northwest of England owed money if the case is won.

Unitied Utilities is accused of breaking competition law by misleading the Environment Agency and water company regulator Ofwat about the number of untreated sewage spills and discharges they made into rivers, lakes, the sea and other waterways. Water companies are legally required to report these incidents.

The claim against United Utilities

Professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant who is leading the claims on behalf of 20 million household water customers, accuses the six water companies of abusing their dominant market position by underreporting the number of times they cause pollution incidents and overcharging customers as a result. She says that the underreporting has led to performance penalties and fines, which would have reduced customers’ bills, not being issued.

Professor Roberts has instructed the law firm Leigh Day to represent her claim against the six water companies. People affected by this claim will not pay any fees or costs. If the case is won, it is expected compensation would be paid by the water company and its shareholders, not by increasing customers’ bills.

How to claim compensation

A decision first needs to be made by the specialist competition court about whether the claim will proceed. Sign up to Consumer Voice to stay updated as the claim progresses if you think you’ve been affected. 

We will keep you updated on the latest developments in the United Utilities claim and other group consumer claims.

What’s happening with this claim?

Professor Roberts filed the claim against United Utilities with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in December 2023 to commence collective proceedings. A date for when the claim will be reviewed by the Tribunal has not yet been set. The claims against Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water and Yorkshire Water were also filed in December. The claim against Severn Trent Water was filed in August 2023. The claim against Thames Water will be filed in coming months.

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