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Independent Expert Given Unfiltered Access to LADWP Data in Overbilling Class Action Case

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 08, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Consumer rights attorney Jack Landskroner, of Landskroner Grieco Merriman, LLC, announced that Paul Bender Consulting Co., the highly respected independent third-party expert in utility billing systems has been given full and unfiltered access to data in the case involving Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) overbilling.

“In September, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle instructed various attorneys to work out outstanding issues regarding the return of over $44,000,000 to customers who were overbilled for water, electricity, and other services by the LADWP. While the attorneys have been conferring, Paul Bender’s team has already begun its detailed work to ensure that the settlement terms are implemented and the LADWP data is accurate,” said Jack Landskroner who settled the landmark class action lawsuit (Antwon D. Jones vs. City of Los Angeles) brought on behalf of all LADWP customers.

Mr. Bender and his team of experts were the consultants who successfully implemented sweeping improvements to the Cleveland Water Department that was plagued by similar catastrophic billing problems, staffing inefficiencies and complaints of poor customer service after Cleveland installed the same billing software that subsequently failed in Los Angeles.

The conversion failed miserably, producing tens of thousands of inaccurate bills and hour-long phone hold times as ratepayers tried to get their bills corrected. The faulty billing system overcharged thousands of customers by estimating meter readings and by failing to charge some commercial customers at all.

“The Bender Consulting team has begun analyzing and independently monitoring LADWP data while also verifying that the very technical process of identifying customers who were overbilled is done correctly. The consultants will provide quarterly reports documenting their objective findings to be filed with the court, assuring transparency in department’s process of issuing credit and refunds to customers. While the final details of the settlement have to be approved by the court, Mr. Bender is already working to make sure there are no unnecessary delays preventing customers from getting 100% of their money back if they were overbilled.”

Case Overview:
In 2010, LADWP hired the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to modernize the utility's nearly 40-year-old billing system. In 2013, LADWP implemented the PwC's $181,000,000 computer billing system. The conversion failed miserably, producing tens of thousands of inaccurate bills and hourlong phone hold times as ratepayers tried to get their bills corrected. The faulty billing system overcharged thousands of customers by estimating meter readings and by failing to charge some commercial customers at all. Jack Landskroner began investigating utility billing problems after the 2009 launch by PwC of a new water billing system for the Cleveland Water Department, which also turned disastrous. His knowledge of the Cleveland billing fiasco enabled Landskroner to understand the necessary comprehensive reforms approved in the groundbreaking LADWP settlement.

Recap of the settlement:
Under terms of the pending settlement, LADWP addressed the errors created by the PwC billing system, its impact on its customers and agreed to:

  • Review and audit the accounts of every single customer. Approximately 1.6 million accounts will be reviewed/audited.
  • Customers who were overcharged will receive a full credit (100 cents on the dollar) to their account if either they were overcharged or they will receive refunds if their account is closed.
  • It will not be necessary for the majority of ratepayers who were overbilled to file a claim. Credits or refunds will be generated automatically and noted on customer’s bills.
  • Customers that incurred incidental expenses related to these billing errors are able to submit a claim for reimbursement of costs, with supporting documentation.
  • If an audit shows that residential customers owed money for services but had not received a timely bill, the LADWP will only be allowed to bill for the prior to 9 months (270 days) of services. The LADWP legally can currently charge up to four years.
  • Commercial accounts would be responsible for paying for services for up to four years;
  • Customers that owe for back services that had not been timely billed will have up to 4 years to pay back any verified balance - interest and penalty free with qualifying small businesses permitted to apply for an extension beyond 4 years if under a hardship.
  • Retain Paul Bender Consulting, an independent third-party expert in utility billing systems, which will monitor the settlement terms for the court to ensure that the settlement terms are implemented and the LADWP data is accurate. (Mr. Bender was the consultant who successfully implemented sweeping improvements to the Cleveland Water Department that was plagued by similar catastrophic billing problems, staffing inefficiencies and complaints of poor customer service.)
  • Within 540 days from the final settlement approval, the LADWP will be responsible for 90-95 % completion of remediation of all system errors and to improving call times and customer service.
  • A third party will administer the settlement.

For a copy of the stipulation of settlement, go to www.lgmlegal.com

About Landskroner Grieco Merriman
Landskroner Grieco Merriman, LLC. is a law firm whose practice areas includes consumer class action litigation and securities fraud. Jack Landskroner is a board certified trial advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and has been counsel in class action cases litigated across the country. In 2012, Jack Landskroner was elected national President of the Public Justice Foundation; a 3,000-member organization's that undertakes nationwide efforts to secure court access for ordinary people and justice in civil rights and civil liberties, environmental protection, consumers' rights, food health and safety, and workers' rights cases with widespread impact. Landskroner has repeatedly been honored as a "Super Lawyer" and a "Top-Rated Lawyer" by his peers and has been recognized as a “litigation Star” by Benchmark Plaintiff publication. For more information about Jack Landskroner and the law firm, visit its website at www.lgmlegal.com

Media Contacts: Jack Landskroner, Esq. (216) 522-9000 Jack@lgmlegal.com Tom Merriman, Esq. (216) 522-9000 Tom@lgmlegal.com Adam Englander, (213) 741-1500 X 528 Adam@ekapr.com Eric W. Rose (805) 624-0572 eric@ekapr.com

Source:Landskroner Grieco Merriman, LLC