The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff has confirmed their open investigation into Carolina Water Services following a number of complaints into estimated meter readings by the utility.
The investigation began in early October. The office says they've received complaints from 15 Carolina Water Services customers in the Golden Pond subdivision in Lexington County. This is in regard to a subcontractor who was fired after incorrect water meter readings were discovered. Carolina Water officials say those misread meter issued occurred over a three-month period.
Officials also said they are looking into issues with water readings in the nearby Brighton Forrest Subdivision.
On Oct. 25, the ORS issued a letter of non-compliance to Carolina Water, saying the utility was required by law to place a "mark of estimation" on bills that were estimated. The office found those marks were not placed.
The ORS notes that it was apparent by looking at data from meters that some of the readings were estimated, but they say they need more information from Carolina Water to figure out which ones specifically so the problem can be corrected.
In that noncompliance notice, they have asked for a "corrective action plan" to be sent back to the ORS by Carolina Water. This corrective action plan is due by this Friday, Nov. 3.
The ORS says they have not yet received a response from Carolina Water, but Carolina Water officials say they have been in touch with them and have included additional steps in the monthly meter reading process.
The state office has asked Carolina Water to look at affected customer records to examine the time period where those estimates may have occurred due to meter reading errors.
Carolina Water is asked to provide several things in the "corrective action plan":
- Details for each one of the customers about whether or not the customer was billed accurately/not build accurately.
- What the customer should have been billed
- What the customer owes, or what is owed it to the customer.
- And how is the company going to fix the issue?
In this instance, the ORS' investigation has not found an instance where customers were overcharged, but it has found that they were undercharged. Here's what would happen:
- In the event of an overcharge, the company must offer some sort of credit.
- In the event of an undercharge, the customer must pay for the water that was used. Those details of payment are worked out between the customer and the water company, however, the customer can only be charged for low billing issues to not exceed a six-month period.
In the event that the company does not comply with ORS' request, the water company may be required to testify in front of the "public service commission of South Carolina."
The ORS assists customers in resolving disputes with utility companies.
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