CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A recently filed class-action lawsuit claims Mt. Pleasant Waterworks overcharged people on their bills and monopolized the area’s water services available to Mt. Pleasant residents.
The lawsuit states the customer’s water bill is based on how many gallons they use every month, but MPW “routinely bills members of the putative class amounts that exceed their actual usage.” It also said that the excessive charges did not align with the actual usage of water and waters services that were used.
The lawsuit claims that MPW has a monopoly on the water services available to people living in Mt. Pleasant because it is the “exclusive supplier” to everyone living in the town.
The lawsuit details several incidents where customers were paid hundreds of dollars more than they were typically charged, and states that when customers asked about the charge they were told that they have leaky toilets and that’s why the bill high.
“In one particular instance, it is reported that MPW’s customer service representative told a customer that the customer’s cat was flushing the toilet and that the cat was causing the customer’s excessive water bills,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that MPW customer service representatives said leaks from irrigation systems could also be a result of the excessive water bill.
According to the lawsuit, customers who had the excessive bills had their plumbing and irrigation systems checked only to have no issues found.
In one case, the lawsuit states after a new meter was replaced a woman’s bill returned to normal, around $40, compared to a $451 bill that she received in 2016.
In another case listed in the lawsuit, a woman’s water bills ranged from $42.17 to $1,057.99 over the course of several years. The lawsuit states that after she complained in February 2019, her bill returned to normal.
Only four people are listed in the lawsuit, but the lawsuit alleges there could be more than 500 people who have been unnecessarily overcharged.
The lawsuit is suing both as a class action and on behalf of individual complaints. The lawsuit is suing for breach of contract, conversion, unjust enrichment/quantum meruit, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, unfair trade practices act violations and fraud.
This lawsuit was filed by K&L Gates Law Firm and they are demanding a jury trial.
Mt. Pleasant Waterworks released the following statement:
Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) received notice Friday of a lawsuit filed on behalf of four customers who are disputing charges on their water bills. We want our customers to know that our rate structure is equitable and fair. MPW has a metering system that can track water usage by the hour. We regularly help customers find leaks before they even know they are there—a benefit that our customers appreciate.
Lawsuits of this nature impact rate payers more than one would think. Because a few customers have filed a lawsuit, with no basis, other customers will pay more in their water bills to cover legal and administrative costs. Staff directs countless hours and resources away from our primary mission of providing our customers with essential water and wastewater service.
Although we can’t speak to these customers’ accounts because of privacy concerns and pending litigation, MPW is a responsive and open public agency. We have a proven track record of operational and financial transparency and customer advocacy. MPW is committed to our customers, and we’ll give this lawsuit the research and consideration it deserves.
Mount Pleasant Waterworks was created by the voters of the Town of Mount Pleasant to serve the town as exclusive water and wastewater provider through provisions of State law. Our Board is elected, and we do not make a profit and receive no revenue from taxes. The revenue we receive from water and sewer bills is reinvested in our water and sewer system, so we can deliver safe, reliable water, provide essential fire services and remove wastewater for treatment at the lowest possible cost.
We have always maintained transparency as an organization and administer our policies fairly across the board treating every customer equally. “By no means will this mindset change,” says General Manager Clay Duffie. “MPW staff and board take pride in the quality of service we provide to our community. We are members of the same community and strive to provide excellent customer service every day.”