Siemens Industry, Inc. has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit over its alleged failure to provide accurate water meters and billing services to ratepayers in Jackson, Mississippi and its surrounding municipalities.
Siemens Industry, Inc. has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit over its alleged failure to provide accurate water meters and billing services to ratepayers in Jackson, Mississippi and its surrounding municipalities. The case comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Jackson against Siemens in June 2019 over what the city’s mayor called “a bait and switch scheme” for which the defendant reportedly fell short “in every aspect of the contract.”
According to the lawsuit, the defendant entered into a multi-year energy performance contract with the City of Jackson in January 2013, wherein it agreed to perform extensive infrastructure repairs and upgrades to the city’s water and sewage systems, replace obsolete water meters with “state-of-the-art” technology, and implement modern, automated billing services. Siemens reportedly promised that the new services and hardware would provide timelier billing that would more accurately reflect “the actual water consumption” of Jackson’s ratepayers.
The lawsuit claims outright that Siemens’ promises were no more than “illusory guarantees” meant to secure a contract with the city. In truth, the case says, Siemens has failed to uphold its responsibilities and has instead outfitted Jackson and its surrounding municipalities with a broken system that has caused ratepayers such as the plaintiffs to be hit with inaccurate water/sewer bills that can soar into the thousands.
Rather than deliver on its promises of energy performance and savings, Siemens, the lawsuit alleges, hired “unqualified, sham subcontractors” reportedly with “political connections and influence” to install faulty water meters. According to the complaint, more than half of 60,000 water meters were installed incorrectly, and more than 10,000 function improperly.
On top of that, the defendant’s supposedly streamlined billing system is inadequate in that it was not set up to handle faulty meter readings, resulting in what the case says are “grossly inaccurate” bills and thousands of “stranded bills” that became lost in the system. As a result, the lawsuit says, ratepayers sometimes receive no bill “for significant periods of time” only to be hit later with an unusually high bill that they may not be able to pay. In other instances, as the lawsuit claims is the case with several of the plaintiffs, ratepayers may receive a water bill for thousands of dollars more than they usually pay each month. While the city blames the excessive billing amounts on leaks, plumbers have reportedly been unable to find the supposed leaks in the plaintiffs’ plumbing systems.
In June 2018, the City of Jackson reportedly admitted that the new water system had “overall failed to function as intended,” and implemented a fourth amendment to its agreement with Siemens. Despite possessing “direct knowledge” that the system was broken, the city, the case says, never communicated this information to account holders, who the plaintiffs argue end up shouldering much of the financial burden.
“While the City concedes that the water meter system does not work, the City is still issuing water bills that are grossly inaccurate and, many times, suspending service to account holders to [sic] fail to pay the balance of their inaccurate accounts,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone who received water services from the city of Jackson, was billed for such services, or paid for such services since “the effective date of commencement of performance” of the city’s contract with Siemens.