Lawyers launch bid to recover ‘hundreds of millions’ for UK energy customers

The case will be taken to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and anyone who has been a bill-payer in Britain since 2001 is eligible to be included in the suit

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Lawyers are trying to recoup hundreds of millions of pounds for energy customers who lost out because of the dealings of several cable sellers.

They have filed a class action lawsuit hoping to prove that households overpaid for their energy.

In 2014, the European Commission found that several companies which sold high voltage and underwater electricity cables between 1999 and 2009 had been running a nearly worldwide cartel.

It meant that energy companies in Britain overpaid for their cables, costs that were ultimately passed on to customers.

Lawyers are trying to recoup hundreds of millions of pounds for energy customers who lost out because of the dealings
Lawyers are trying to recoup hundreds of millions of pounds for energy customers who lost out because of the dealings

Lawyers from Scott + Scott have been instructed by Clare Spottiswoode, who was head of regulator Ofgas in the 1990s.

“Domestic electricity customers in Great Britain paid inflated energy bills for many years through no fault of their own,” Ms Spottiswoode said.

“This is manifestly unfair. Without collective proceedings like this, UK consumers would have no reasonable way of recovering damages for the harm suffered by serious anti-competitive practice further up the supply chain.”

James Hain-Cole, from Scott + Scott, said: “This is a complex and meticulous claim, bringing together some of the foremost lawyers, economists and industry experts in the field. We are highly confident in the strength of our case.”

The case will be taken to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and anyone who has been a bill-payer in Britain since 2001 is eligible to be included in the suit.

Lawyers hope they can recoup hundreds of millions of pounds, but did not give a precise figure.

The European Commission found in 2014 that several companies which sold high voltage and underwater electricity cables between 1999 and 2009 had been running a nearly worldwide cartel
The European Commission found in 2014 that several companies which sold high voltage and underwater electricity cables between 1999 and 2009 had been running a nearly worldwide cartel

Ms Spottiswoode said: “I hope this will send a warning sign to any corporates who might contemplate anti-competitive behaviour in future and will recover appropriate redress for consumers who lost money as a result. I am fully confident in the importance and strength of this claim.”

Prysmian Group, which is named in the case, said: “Although we have not yet been served with any papers, we understand that an application to bring collective proceedings has been made to the Competition Appeal Tribunal in England.

“We note however that the tribunal’s permission is required before any collective proceedings can be brought.

“The application requests permission, which is subject to stringent requirements, and permission has not yet been granted.

“Against this background, it is premature to speculate at this stage.”

It comes as a cost-of-living crisis grips Britain.

Adam Seagrave, UK Sales Trader of Saxo Markets, said: "The Bank of England is estimating the average household is set to pay as much as £2,800 for energy bills come October, which could become a new normal for as long as wholesale oil and gas prices remain high and there's no alternative energy source.

"This only adds to the anxiety for many in the UK as the country faces up to increases in energy bills alongside a rise in interest rates, petrol and food prices as inflation surges towards 10%, rapidly eating into incomes and savings.

"Nervous consumers will already be downgrading a summer of fun to a summer of saving as millions feel pressure to rein in spending on holidays, going out and other non-essentials in a further blow to the economy.

"The next few months remain pivotal for the UK economy, with the Government coming under renewed pressure to decide on policy to help those affected, ahead of a potentially catastrophic winter combining a cost of living crisis with a recession and rising unemployment."