REPORT: LADWP overcharged customers by at least $67.5M

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A court-appointed independent monitor has verified at least $67.5 million in refunds and credits that the Department of Water and Power will need to pay to remedy inaccurate bills issued to customers during a troubled upgrade of the utility's billing system, attorneys said Tuesday.
 
Jack Landskroner, the attorney who represented DWP customers in a class- action lawsuit -- and pending settlement -- over the billing issues, said even more refund claims could be verified in the future, because the $67.5 million ``only addresses the verified credits and refunds customers can automatically receive.''
 
The settlement will resolve a lawsuit in which customers demanded refunds for overcharges that occurred when PricewaterhouseCoopers carried out an overhaul of the utility's customer information system in 2013.
 
The overbilled amount had initially only been estimated as at least $44.7 million.
 
DWP General Manager David H. Wright said a revised settlement agreement filed last week ``provides for the return of every penny owed to our customers as a result of the flawed customer billing system designed and implemented by PricewaterhouseCoopers and launched in 2013.''
 
``Under the terms of the settlement, LADWP will refund customers 100 percent of the amount verified by the court-appointed independent monitor to be owed to impacted customers, while also allowing affected customers to file
claims for reimbursement if they disagree with the amount of refund verified by the monitor,'' Wright said.
 
The refunds should occur in summer 2017 and ``will follow a specific calendar established by the court,'' Wright said.
 
``We are hopeful the court will grant preliminary approval to the revised settlement this Friday, so that we can take the next steps toward refunding our customers the money they are rightfully owed,'' Wright said.
 
Another attorney for the DWP customers, Tom Merriman, said the independent monitor has the DWP's full cooperation and gets ``unrestricted access'' to the utility's computer servers.
 
If the judge gives preliminary approval to the verified amounts on Friday, DWP customers will receive a letter within 90 business days showing the overbilled amounts as verified.
 
The DWP and attorneys for one of the plaintiffs last week also submitted an updated joint settlement agreement that includes changes that restrict how much the utility can back-bill customers who were under-charged, allows for pre-
identification of claims from solar customers, sets up a dedicated customer service staff for complex billing issues and raises the cap on monitoring costs to $2.5 million.
 
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