High water bill post prompts huge response on social media app

Dozens of replies to O.P. woman's post

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Chris Hudson was shocked to see that his WaterOne bill paid automatically through his bank account was triple what it had ever been in the six years he's lived in his Overland Park home.

"I told the WaterOne representative there definitely has to be something on this here," he said.

After Hudson called WaterOne, a worker came to his house to check his meter.

"They informed me that they in fact, had in fact, misread the meter," he said.

WaterOne spokeswoman Mandy Cawby told the 41 Action News Investigators Hudson was overcharged $539.10 on his bill.

He was charged $683.53 for a bill which was supposed to be $144.43.

According to Cawby, it happened because the meter reader entered 6941 instead of 5941 causing the massive overcharge.

Hudson is far from alone with his complaint about being overcharged by WaterOne.

Jennifer Day lives a couple miles north of Hudson.

"I was really looking forward to our water bill this season because we didn't have to put water in our pool," she said.

But when Day received her bill, it was for more than $352.

That bill is a nearly $125 increase from the same billing period last year when Day said she and her husband used more water to fill the pool, and used their sprinkler more frequently because it didn't rain nearly as much as it did this year.

She also contacted WaterOne.

"Their answer is consistently that there's something wrong with our house and there just isn't," Day said.

Frustrated and curious, Day posted on the Nextdoor app to see if anyone in her area of Overland Park was getting higher than expected water bills.

Nextdoor is an app that creates a "private social network" for neighborhoods, according to the company's website.

Common uses include finding babysitters, organizing neighborhood events, or alerting others to things like car break-ins or overpriced water bills.

Within a few days, 27 families, including the Hudsons, made dozens of comments on Day's post.

They include people who were out of the house on vacation, had shut the water completely off for major home repairs, and people who didn't have pools or sprinkler systems.

They all complained about exceptionally high water bills compared to past billing periods.

"I feel lucky that we weren't the only ones and I thought maybe that would help us in the long run," Day said.

But Day isn't getting any money back.

Instead, she's having WaterOne come out and do an audit of their system to see where usage is coming from.

WaterOne did agree to give the Hudsons a credit for future bills for their overcharge.

When the 41 Action News Investigators asked why they weren't given a refund, Cawby said a company representative called the Hudsons, processed a refund and also gave them a $40 credit to their account for their trouble.

"It seems like other people have the same issue," Hudson said. "But they just haven't been able to get the same kind of response and support." 

Cawby said Hudson's case is very unusual.

She said there's an error in only seven out of every 10,000 times a meter is read. 

But Cawby said the company is in the process of installing new electronically-based meters which give more accurate readings and may produce a higher bill due to that accuracy.

She also said individual customer complaints are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Issues like excessive sprinkler use, running toilets or system leaks can all produce higher-than-expected water bills, according to Cawby.

WaterOne did raise its rate 1.9 percent at the beginning of 2017.

Cawby said that rate increase means the average customer pays about 80 cents extra per month compared to last year.

She said there's no rate increase proposed for 2018.

Customers with questions or concerns about their water bills are asked to call (913) 895-1800 for assistance. 

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