~ Company originally requested increases from more than 110,000 Florida
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today praised a decision by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to accept an agreement offered by Aqua Utilities Florida, Inc., a subsidiary of Aqua American, Inc., the nation’s largest publicly traded utility. The agreement withdraws the company’s proposed rate increase, originally opposed by the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Public Counsel on behalf of more than 110,000 Aqua Utilities Florida consumers after numerous complaints surfaced about inappropriate billing, water quality and associated health concerns.
The agreement also provides consumer refunds to customers who had already been billed at the increased rate and will require the company to improve water quality and customer service.
“This is an example of how companies should spend more time improving the quality of service to their consumers,” said Attorney General McCollum.
“I am pleased that this company decided to address the needs of its consumers rather than capitalize on their circumstances.”
In June, Aqua Utilities Florida petitioned for an 80 percent increase in water rates and a 105 percent increase in wastewater rates. In response to the requested increase, public hearings were held in a number of service areas and consumers came forward to voice their concerns about the company’s service, casting doubt on the propriety of such exorbitant rate increases. Consumers stated they were afraid to drink the water, that it smelled bad and that they couldn’t use it to wash laundry because it only further soiled the clothes.
After learning of the high complaint volume, the Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to intervene, joining the Public Counsel’s fight against the increased rates. Following the motion to intervene, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Public Counsel filed a joint motion to dismiss the rate petition filed by the company.
“On behalf of Florida’s consumers, I am extremely gratified to see this request dismissed and refunds make their way back to the customers,”
said Charlie Beck, Interim Public Counsel. “The proposed increases were almost double the current rates and I am certain consumers are relieved to have this burden taken off their shoulders.”
Prior to today’s agreement, the PSC staff had recommended to the Commission that the motion to dismiss the rate increase be granted and that the increased interim rates be refunded to customers. In response, the company filed the proposed agreement with the Commission, voluntarily withdrawing the requested rate increase and developing policy to address consumers’ concerns. Among the company’s efforts to improve customer service will be a series of town meetings for consumers to air their concerns and speak directly with company representatives regarding service issues.