Launch of opt-out collective action claim against Severn Trent

09 Aug 2023

In the context of ongoing national publicity regarding discharges of untreated sewage and wastewater into rivers, streams and coastal waters, a new collective action brought in the Competition Appeal Tribunal alleges that Severn Trent is infringing UK competition law.

The proposed class representative, Professor Carolyn Roberts, is a water resource management specialist.

Severn Trent is in an effective monopoly position, and can charge monopoly prices subject to control by Ofwat and the competition rules on abuse of dominance.  Ofwat’s price control in the sewerage sector is performance-related. Professor Roberts alleges that Severn Trent has misled Ofwat and the Environment Agency as to the number of pollution incidents associated with its sewerage network, with the result that it has been able to charge higher prices to its customers for its sewerage services under Ofwat’s controls than it would have been able to charge had it reported accurate information. The claim against Severn Trent is brought on behalf of 8 million customers who could each be owed a share of c. £330 million.

The claim against Severn Trent is the first in a group of collective claims planned against sewerage companies in England.

It has received extensive media coverage, including by the BBC, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror and the Telegraph.

Jon Turner KC, Julian Gregory, Nikolaus Grubeck and Antonia Fitzpatrick are acting on behalf of Professor Roberts, instructed by Leigh Day (see Leigh Day’s press release here).