Anglian Water customers across Bedfordshire could be entitled to compensation following overcharging claims

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Collectively, the compensation value could be up to nearly £70million

Millions of Anglian Water household customers across the East of England could be entitled to compensation through legal action alleging the water company overcharged consumers.  

A legal claim – with a potential value of nearly £70million – has been issued Anglian Water for allegedly breaking competition law by misleading the Environment Agency and Ofwat regarding the number of pollution incidents they cause, including spills and discharges of sewage made into rivers and lakes.  

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Anglian Water supplies water and sewerage services to all or parts of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Suffolk and the case against the company is brought on behalf of 4.8 million customers.

The water company has allegedly misled Ofwat and the Environment Agency with its sewage discharge figures. Image: Samara DooleThe water company has allegedly misled Ofwat and the Environment Agency with its sewage discharge figures. Image: Samara Doole
The water company has allegedly misled Ofwat and the Environment Agency with its sewage discharge figures. Image: Samara Doole

The value of the claim against Anglian Water could be as high as £69.5 million if successful.

It is one of six water companies across the UK facing collective action legal claims. Combined, the claims could lead to compensation payments of over £800million, if successful.

Law firm Leigh Day is acting on behalf of Professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant, who is bringing the claims against Severn Trent Water, Northumbrian Water, United Utilities, Anglian Water, Yorkshire Water, and Thames Water on behalf of an estimated 20 million affected customers.  

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The number of pollution incidents a company reports to regulators is a key factor in determining the price they can charge consumers for their services. The claims argue customers have been overcharged as a result of the companies’ underreporting.  

These are the first collective action cases where the competition abuse focuses on compliance with environmental laws and reporting responsibilities to regulators.

Professor Carolyn Roberts said: 

“In England and Wales there is growing anger about the state in which sewage discharges leave our rivers and beaches. I hope that the legal claims I am bringing on behalf of 20 million customers could be the start of desperately needed change in the water industry.”

“Water companies are required to report pollution incidents accurately 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.”

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

The claim is ‘opt-out,’ meaning individuals do not need to sign up for the claim. Customers affected will automatically be included in the claim unless they specifically choose to opt-out. Customers will only need to come forward at the compensation stage if the claim is successful.  

If the case is successful, it is expected any compensation would be paid by the relevant water company and its shareholders, not by increasing customers’ bills.

Zoë Mernick-Levene, partner at Leigh Day, added: “As well as providing individual compensation and justice, opt-out proceedings also act as a deterrent to future misconduct, as companies know that consumers can act collectively to hold them to account for any rule breaking.”