Millions of Brits could get thousands of pounds compensation – from overcharged bills to rip-off loans, can you claim? | The Sun
MILLIONS of Brits could get thousands of pounds in compensation after being overcharged on their bills or for loans.
Several major collective lawsuits have been launched in recent months and consumers may be able to cash-in.
Known as class action suits, the legal cases are chasing compensation for millions of consumers who have been let down by companies.
Under the cases, one person takes a company to court on behalf of consumers.
The suits have long been popular in the US but until recently didn’t happen in the UK.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 changed all that and 2023 has already seen many major cases progressing.
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It's worth noting that legal cases can take time, and that there's yet to be a payout under the new law.
But if you're affected, you won't have to do anything to get the compensation, if successful.
We've rounded up the cases that are coming through and could lead to getting money back.
Drivers overcharged interest on car finance loans
A legal action has been lodged against the UK's three biggest car finance providers – Black Horse, MotoNovo and Santander Consumer – claiming customers were overcharged.
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Consumer advocate Doug Taylor and litigation specialist Scott+Scott are leading the claim, which has been filed at the Competition Appeals Tribunal.
It claims anyone who bought their car on finance between October 2015 and January 27, 2021 from one of the three lenders may have been charged too much interest on their loan.
The legal action also claims these lenders earned bigger profits by allowing car dealers to sell finance at higher rates than they could have.
And it alleges that car dealers ramped up interest rates on car finance to earn themselves a fatter commission.
The case has been submitted to the court as a "collective class action" so if you are affected, you are automatically included.
The lawyers believe they can get up to £1billion in damages.
If they win, it would see around a million people receive a payout.
If the claim succeeds everyone who took car finance during this time frame could be entitled to a payout unless they explicitly refuse it.
This is because the claim is known as an opt-out case – so you are automatically included unless you choose not to take part.
Santander told The Sun it did not comment on legal claims against it.
A Black Horse spokesman said the lender is "committed to ensuring customers have clear and transparent information".
MotoNovo Finance said it won't comment on active legal proceedings.
Millions of billpayers overcharged by water companies
A legal claim led by professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant, alleges that Seven Trent under-reported pollution incidents and ended up charging more as a result.
Leigh Day, the law firm representing the professor, claims the water firms eight million customers are owed £330million compensation.
It means anyone affected – in this case Severn Trent customers – are automatically part of the case, and any compensation.
Leigh Day has filed the action at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, but any compensation is still a long way off as legal cases often take years.
Professor Roberts and the law firm said they intend to launch further claims against other water firms over the same issues.
It says action against six firms could affect 20million customers in total leading to compensation of £800million if successful.
Severn Trent say the claim is "highly speculative" and with "no merit" and strongly refutes the claim.
Mastercard overcharging claim could give consumers £300
The biggest case affects up to 46million customers of Mastercard, with a lawyer claiming they were overcharged for years.
Former Financial Ombudsman Service chief Walter Merricks has claimed that card users were overcharged between 1992 and 2008.
If his case – Merricks v Mastercard – is successful, affected Mastercard users could each be awarded a payout of up to £300.
Mastercard holders don’t need to do anything to be included. Any living in the UK on 6 September 2016 when the claim was first made, are automatically included.
The card company has dismissed the claim. A spokesperson told The Sun: "This flawed claim isn't about helping UK consumers – it's being pushed by lawyers and their financial backers trying to make money for themselves.
"We'll continue to fight it and are confident it will be thrown out."
The same doubt affects all the claims currently in progress, so consumers should not bank on getting the cash.
BT landline customers could get £500 each
Another big case – BT v Le Patourel – is a £600million claim against BT on behalf of 2.3million landline-only customers who were overcharged, it is alleged.
The case concerns “Voice Only Customers” who had a BT landline between October 2015 and April 2018, but did not receive a broadband service, as well as “Split Purchase Customers” who had a BT landline service which they didn’t bundle with a broadband service for a discount.
All affected customers will automatically be represented and do not need to take any steps to join the action by lawyers Mishcon de Reya. They reckon consumers affected could be in line for a £500 payment each.
But BT said: “We strongly disagree with the speculative claim being brought against us.”
Energy-bill payers could be in line for hundreds of pounds
A former head of the UK's gas regulator is also leading a claim against energy companies on behalf of UK customers.
Clare Spottiswoode has instructed lawyers from Scott + Scott in a class action which hopes prove that households overpaid for their energy between 1999 and 2009.
The over-charging stems from companies which sold high voltage and underwater electricity cables running a cartel, for which they were fined by the European Commission in 2014.
Anyone who has been an energy bill-payer in Britain since 2001 is eligible to be included in the suit, through which lawyers hope to recoup hundreds of millions of pounds.
Rail users could get up to £55
Some three million rail customers are being represented in cases against South Western Railway and London and South Eastern Railway.
The train operators have been accused of failing to tell Travelcard holders about boundary or extension fares, leaving customers forced to buy a higher fare.
The cases are being brought by former Citizens Advice head of research Justin Guttman and law firms Charles Lyndon and Hausfeld and is claiming around £166million from the train operators.
Consumers affected will have to provide evidence of Travelcard ownership from late 2015 and rail fare purchases relating to the South Western, Southeastern, Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern, and/or Gatwick Express rail networks.
Rail users need to register at www.boundaryfares.com/Request
Victims of data breaches could get thousands
There are a number of potential actions against firms which have been negligent by allowing data breaches, putting customer information at risk.
Lawyers are gathering information about any potential claims but are keen to hear from victims who should search online for details for lawyers who may take up your case on a no-win, no-fee basis.
For instance, some 900,000 Virgin Media customers received notification from Virgin Media in March 2020 that their data was part of a breach.
Lawyers reckon victims could have a claim, with payouts predicted to be up to £5,000.
Meanwhile, 420,000 British Airways customers who booked through the BA website in 2018 had personal data compromised.
Lawyers reckon payouts could be as much as £6,000.
Customers of budget airline Easyjet were hit when crooks got hold of their information between April and May 2020.
Anyone notified by EasyJet at the time may be able to claim compensation, which could be up to £2,000.
What are class action lawsuits?
Lawsuits that result in compensation for many people are often referred to as "class action".
In England and Wales, a Group Litigation Order (GLO) is often used for this kind of lawsuit.
Collective action has been made easier under the UK's Consumer Rights Act 2015.
It means the courts can treat similar claims as one, rather than having hundreds or even thousands of separate individual claims.
There are a number of stages to bringing this kind of lawsuit, including the courts needing to give permission for a GLO.
Both sides can also appeal decisions at various stages making it a lengthy process with no guarantee of a payout.
Collective actions are rare – there have only been around 100 cases since 2000 according to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
The Mastercard case was the first of these big claims since the changes in 2015 and is the furthest along – but it first launched in 2017 and is still in the courts.
Lawyers have urged Brits to join several other collective claims for compensation in recent years.
There is no cost to sign up, but the firm will usually take a cut of any payout if the claim is successful to cover legal costs and that can be as much as 30%.
There's no guarantee of a payout and collective claims of this type have not yet been fully tested in court.
None have yet been given permission to go ahead as a collective action apart form the Mastercard claim.
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Millions of Easyjet customers who had their personal details stolen in a data breach could make a claim for compensation.
British Airways, Virgin Media, and Equifax are also the subject of collective claims after data breaches.
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