Customers Win; LA Agrees to Repay DWP Users

The settlement could total in the millions of dollars

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The settlement could total in the millions of dollars. (Published Thursday, Aug 18, 2011)

    If you're one of the thousands of people who've been getting overbilled on your LADWP bill, you'll be getting a refund by next spring. NBC LA has learned exclusively that the city of Los Angeles has agreed to a major settlement, which could refund millions of dollars to apartment and condo residents who got erroneously charged for trash pick-up.

    The city was illegally billing apartment and condo residents for city trash pickup, even though they paid for private collection. The city has been wrongly billing people this way for decades. NBC LA first exposed the problem in February 2011.

    "They're overcharging people who really shouldn't be overcharged, and in many instances, can't afford to be overcharged," said Timothy Blood, a consumer attorney who filed a class action suit against the city over these garbage billing errors.

    Documents obtained by NBC LA show Los Angeles has agreed to settle the suit, and give refunds to residents for all overcharges dating back to October 2007. Previously, the city was giving only one-year refunds, citing a California statute of limitations.

    Blood called the settlement a "tremendous victory for the consumer," but he said that for some, it's only a "partial victory."

    He's talking about people like April Rimer of West LA. She says the city has been billing her up to $50 a month, going back at least 10 years, for city trash pickup she never got.

    "I think they're a bunch of cheaters and liars," said Rimer.

    She wants a refund for all 10 years of overcharges, but under the settlement, she'll  only get four years.

    "Their goal is to keep my money," said Rimer.

    The city has blamed the billing errors on an outdated computer system. And as part of the settlement, the city is promising to replace its computers with a new billing system by next spring.

    "The city has an obligation to bill people accurately, like any business or government," said Blood.

    The settlement must still be approved by the LA City Council, but Blood said that's a foregone conclusion.

    Then the city will send out notices to all LADWP customers by early next year, telling them how to apply for a refund. Until the city receives all the applications, it's unknown how many people are eligible for refunds and how much money will actually be repaid. Some estimates put the settlement in the millions of dollars.

    If you qualify, attorney Blood said you'll get a check or credit on your DWP bill by next spring.

    Do you have more information about this story? Do you have another story for us to investigate? E-mail: Joel.Grover@nbcuni.com.

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