(FOX 11) -
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) customers will begin receiving information packets in the mail this week explaining their rights to recover compensation from a landmark overbilling class action settlement.
“Many customers don’t have to do anything to receive a credit or refund,” said consumer rights attorney Jack Landskroner of Landskroner Grieco Merriman. “But the settlement also creates a claims process and gives customers the right to recover additional damages which resulted from overbilling.” In December, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle gave preliminary approval to the complex settlement which requires LADWP to repay each customer 100% of what they were overcharged or damaged. Court-appointed independent monitor Paul Bender has already verified $67,500,000 in overcharges to be refunded to residential and commercial customers.
Bender has also confirmed that nearly 800,000 current and former customers are entitled to credits or refunds. Those overcharges range from less than a dollar to tens of thousands of dollars. While many customers were not overbilled, all customers will get notice of the settlement in the mail and those affected will get details of what their recovery will be in an accompanying letter.
“It doesn’t matter if you were overbilled 15 cents or $15,000,” added Landskroner. “The settlement requires that every penny be returned to consumers.”
In addition to the pre-identified refunds, the settlement outlines multiple categories of claims for which class members may be entitled to compensation. Some will require customers to file a claim form and provide supporting documentation. For example:
• Some customers may have hired an electrician or plumber to figure out why their utility bill suddenly spiked only to learn they were being overbilled. Those costs are recoverable under the settlement.
• Others may have been hit with overdraft bank fees because they had automatic bill payment and LADWP overcharged them. Overdraft fees are recoverable.
• Those customers with a premise condition (such as a leaking pipe or faulty meter) which went undiscovered because LADWP relied on estimated billing for multiple billing periods. This resulted in excess consumption of water or power. They may be entitled to damages.
Information packets will be sent to 2.4 million customer accounts by April 4, 2016. They will include a legal notice describing the settlement, a letter indicating the amount of any pre-identified automatic refund, and a claim form to make additional claims for compensation.
Judge Berle has appointed Kurtzman Carlson Consultants (“KCC”) as the Independent Claims Administrator. KCC will maintain a call center to answer class members’ question from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm (PST) Monday through Friday. The toll-free number is 1-844-899-6219. There is also a settlement website located at http://www.ladwpbillingsettlement.com/ where additional information about the settlement can be found.
“Even if you are not one of the nearly 800,000 customers who have been pre-identified for a refund, if you believe you have been otherwise overcharged you have a right to file a claim form to seek compensation,” said Landskroner. “You can even fill out a claim form online .”
The settlement also requires LADWP to spend an additional $20,000,000 to implement extensive operational reforms detailed in the agreement and requires billing rule changes which will prevent the utility from issuing untimely bills that have been held by DWP for more than approximately 180 days, depending on the customer’s billing cycle.
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