CHARLESTON, S.C. - A class-action lawsuit accuses a South Carolina public water company of overcharging its customers, claiming a customer service representative in one case blamed a cat flushing a toilet for an excessive bill, The State reported.
The suit, filed May 15 in the Court of Common Pleas, Ninth Judicial District in Charleston County, also claims the Mount Pleasant Waterworks blamed customers’ leaky pipes and irrigation systems for the increase in bills.
The four plaintiffs in the case, who are from Mount Pleasant, claimed their water bills could jump by hundreds of dollars without warning, according to the lawsuit. They are seeking refunds of all excess charges. The plaintiffs are also asking to have the case classified as a class action suit for all Mount Pleasant water customers, the State reported.
“In one particularly egregious 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 claims.
The suit references four cases in which the utility blamed leaks that did not exist, charged excessive late fees and promised refunds that were never applied to the customers’ accounts, the State reported.
Trisha Treece, one of the plaintiffs, said she was out of town in 2019 during the January and February billing cycles and had turned off her toilet and irrigation systems, according to the lawsuit. Her bills for those two months were $305.18 and $315.87, the suit claims.
After the water company refused to send a technician to inspect the meter, Treece said she hired a Rainbird technician who determined there were no leaks and that the irrigation system was working properly, the lawsuit claims.
Officials from the Mount Pleasant Waterworks said Monday the lawsuit’s claims were “baseless,” the State reported.
“Lawsuits of this nature impact rate-payers more than one would think,” utility officials said in a statement. “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.”