More NJ American Water Customers Express Frustration With Company

nj_american_water_tlsFollowing Thursday’s Township Committee meeting where the Mayor publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the NJ American Water Company, more and more residents are now coming forward with serious complaints. The following is another letter submitted to TLS by a frustrated customer.

I have been mad at them ever since I moved into my first house over 10 years ago. I had no money to spare and was a real small family… but I moved in June/July and they charged me sewer based on the last much larger family. I fought with them for ages to no avail. I finally got the BPU involved and also started a class action lawsuit. In the end, it turned out they have a tarrif supported and allowed by the state of New Jersey that allowed them to base my sewage on the last tenant even though I used less than half that even in the summer! I’ve been at battle since. Of course when the lawyers found the tarrif they kindly explained to me that they can probably get the law changed… but there is no money in it for anyone… so they politely backed out.

They once turned off everyone in the neighborhood with a past due balance on the First day of Succos… including the shul. No one could call until after Yom Tov when they then charge you higher fees if you need a faster turn around time to get the waer back running. They are the most aggressive utility on collections… sometimes with the least warnings and other times calling you endlessly and excessively. The gas, electric and phone company will not shut you off for several months past due… and only after numerous warnings. These guys will sometimes shut you off less than a month past due with a cursory warning.

I had a pipe burst in my sprinkler system and they charged me hundreds of dollars for the water. Way more than it even cost me to repair the pipe! They agreed the circumstance allows for relief on the bill… but kept telling me they would send me something in the mail and I would have to submit a repair bill on the pipe. They just never followed through!

Well, remember how they overcharged me for sewer based on the people from the last year? They continued doing so as in the future years they would not read the meter in the winter and would base it on the year before… which was still the last tenants! This went on for ages. Now that will not be an issue because they changed it all up to radio read meters. They drive by and take an electronic reading. Well, guess what? When they changed the meters they billed me for something like 55,000 gallons of water! Now when my pipe burst and my back yard turned into a swimming pool… it was like 37,000 gallons! It was impossible for me to use that much. The guy obviously put the wrong number down when he switched the meters. I fought them on it and they basically said tough luck!

All those years and now as well… I had to blindly trust them because they have a hidden meter! The gas and electric company have meters you can read. Not the water company. You have to blindly trust them. I called them and asked about a readable meter and they said no way. They bury them and will not give me one that I can read. Then they overcharge you and you have no way of looking at the meter to see!I It is outrageous!!!

If they can make their own estimates in the winter… at least let us see the meter and give them a reading or at least have the knowledge of our ongoing usage and some oversight!

There is a big movement in the electric field to make smarter users and show people how much each appliance uses and what it costs people. Well… how about the water company starting with letting us see our usage with a readable meter?!

For those asking about the mysterious PSTAC and PWAC fees… the first is a ‘pass through’ charge for their costs in buying water from other suppliers instead of the reservoirs, wells and other means of water they control. I just don’t understand how we pay a fee for what they buy and then pay again for the water in the regular fee.Their water is free and just a delivery charge… but water they ‘buy’ is more expensive and then also charged for delivery? The PWAC has to do with something similar, but for sewage. It is what they pay other treatment facilities besides their own for treating the sewage for disposal. Again… they already charge us for sewage services, why is this a separate and additional fee on top of the per thousand gallons fee we already pay?

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  1. Please let us know who you used to start your class action, as I want to join and I have proof including call recordings and call records obtained from the NJAW after going to court.

    That includes shutting my water without warring while in middle of billing dispute and NJAW was notified by the BPU to place my account on hold untill the dispute is settled! All that is documented! And of curse the water was turned back on upon request of the BPU! But as you know they still charged me for it.

    They did low estimates reading for a long time and I requested several times to have an actual reading, it was rescheduled several times with no reason! It was finally done in Jan. And as you would know it was a very high reading and they charge me sewer charges on the entire reading as in winter and when the reg. JAN. Reading was done a few day later they charged me again the fixed monthly fee! Yes they charged me the monthly fee 13 times in a 12 month period! All is documented! And of curse when called they refused to credit even the extra monthly fee!

    And don’t forget my meter is outside at the curb so there is no reason not to be able to take an actual reading and me as the customer no way how to read an call in the reading!

  2. I was the one who wrote the first letter. Not that is matters, but I reversed PSTAC and PWAC. In any event… the class action was dropped before it got anywhere because it turned out to be something lawmakers allowed in a tarrif to this water company. I just don’t understand how in this day and age of competition the governing authorities allow such an aggressive company with such unfair practices to operate as they do?

    The Telecom and energy industry (both gas and electric) were opened to competition by law and also incentivized to play nice on the delivery portion (the part not really opened to competitiion). Even if they can’t or won’t open the water market to competition, you would think they would at least concentrate on forcing fair practices. Everything you do with the water company here in Lakewood… you just have no recourse against them!

    This is water, we are talking about. The most basic of utilities… and one that has easily become most residents most expensive utility (at least the water and sewage together)… yet so many other cities and municipalities charge nothing for it… or just small amounts of late to help cover needed repairs! If course they pay for it out of taxes and such… but it is not like out tax burden here is lower than these other locations. It is not lower on state nor on local.

    When I complained about the 55,000 gallons they charged me for that month… they said they would also test my meter, if they happeend to still have it in their possesion. This way they could run water through it and see if it properly meters it (no luck on getting them to read numbers on it as who knows what happens when they disconnect it and jostle it around). Now, when I had that once with the gas company (you are allowed to request a test like once every 5 or 10 years by BPU regulation)… I seem to recall they sent it to a 3rd party company. In any event, they tested it themselves, per their communication with me… and it actually came out to be registering more water than used! Well, they told me they are allowed up to 3% off… so even though it registered more water and could have been doing so for the 10 years I lived in that house… they need make no adjustment to what they billed me for.

    The sad thing is no one can do anything about this without extreme expense, time and effort. I am delighted to hear that Lakewood is taking a look at this. I am not sure what rights and abilities Lakewood has in this matter… but am happy they can use their ‘governing voice’ to at least push for one resident to get relief on his sewage issue and perhaps let the company know that the people are getting restless and a public outcry can eventually lose them this revenue.

    I added an email address this time. I don’t know if it appears in the post, or if TLS keeps it on file internally… but if for some reason someone needs or cares to reach out to me from my first post or this… I can be reachable. Kudos to TLS as well. It is nice to ‘be heard’.

  3. if you pay your bill after shut-off before 3pm, they’ll charge the regular turn-on fee. If you pay after 3pm they’ll charge $100. which means that if you get turned off at 2:55pm and payed at 3:05 you get charged an additional $100. some how they manage to do most of the shut-offs between 2-3pm. overtime $$$$$

  4. We had the same issue with previous tenant using double of what we used. We tried fighting it with them and got the Board of Utilities involved before even moving in up until about a month or two ago with letters and proof – it actually worked and we got monies back for the differences. (you gotta persue it witjh Board of Utilities – this is the second time we have done it and succeeded!!

  5. They are a tough company to deal with, rain tree has the other water company and there bills are at least half of what i pay.

  6. Interesting to note that the winter quarter usage was instituted to protect the consumer so he doesn’t have to pay for water in the summer that is not going in the sewere (like a sprinkler or washing the car).

    NJAWC somehow managed to manipulate what was supposed to be a protection to the consumer & use it to rip them off.

    We need to have the winter quarter law adjusted to state that we pay based on winter quarter usage or actual usage, whichever is less. If I actually use 6000 gallons in the summer, I would rather be billed for it, even if some did not go down the drain than be billed based on a 10,000 gallon read in the winter!

    Also, if I go away for the summer, not fair that I should continue to pay based on an estimate usage from the winter when my actual usage is less.

    As far as the estimate reading before winter quarter starts, what I have done with the water company in the past, after I filed a complaint with the BPU & the water company was anxious to settle, was to go with an estimate of 2 months instead of 3 months, so we could start with an actual read instead of an estimate.

    If anyone pursues a class action lawsuit, it will be a blessing for everyone.

  7. yep, same story. My house was previously occupied by several illegal families, and when I bought the house and moved in, they started charging me based on the 15000 gallon usage of the previous multiple familes. I complained to the BPU and after a lot of back and forth, and at least five completelt different answers from speaking to five people at NJAW the partially relented and took a few thousand gallons off. What was the name of that city that got fed up with American Water and finally bought the water rights off of them to restore pricing sanity?3-4000 dollars a year for water is insane! Help! Please!

  8. Editorial

    In my experience, the arrogance that employees of the NJAWC display is unmatched.

    Bernard Meltzer, o’h, once said about collection agencies that before anyone is hired to work there they have to pass a physical exam. If the doctor detects a heart beating, the prospect is denied.

    I believe he could have said the same for that company.

  9. i had a similiar issue moving into a house with 13000 gallons a month compared to my 2000-3000. i fought on the phone and they finally told me once i get my own estimate the following year they would reimburse me and to call back then. A few months later i called back but they wouldn’t refund me. I finally googles the CFO’s phone number and called him, he was in a meeting but his secretary took care of the whole issue she had a manager call me and with in the week a credit of a few hundred dollars was placed on my bill.

  10. i would love to get involved with some sort of action again amwater. i have had some experience dealing with the press and would be more then glad to reach out to some of my contacts and solicit them to give us some press coverage. please post an email. thanks

  11. They are withholding close to a $1,000,000 of our fees due to Ocean Cty.MUA (where our sewer is treated) I was told by an engineer from the OCMUA that the water co. is putting as close to 0 $’s back into a very aging infrastucture that has alot of Infiltration of rain and ground water which equates to more Billable wastewater that the OCMUA has to treat . WE PAY for THIS!! Looks like NJ American is MILKING us to the Max.They will bleed this Co and us and line Their pockets and WE’ll be stuck with an infrastructure in need of COUNTLESS Millions in repairs

  12. the water company claims that they charge for the water and then they charge for the dirty water going into the filtration system. why there are 2 charges for that i dont know. pstac is not for the water they buy because we paid for that already in the other fee. unless they are double billing. 10 years ago those charges were not on the bill. its a big time scam!! i went online to the bpu website anf filled out the form . within an hour njawc was calling to speak to me. try that on for size.

  13. NJ American Water Company is commonly viewed as a highly corrupt company. Note that the Township is actually an accomplice to the water company by outlawing the use of well-water for residential purposes by local ordinance. Well-water is commonly used througout the country as an alternative to water bills.

  14. Had same issue with moving to old house anbd getting charged for 10000 gallons even though only used 2000 Called bunch of times till finaly called Sen Singer office and someone there got involved But didn’t help at all some VP just sent her a email how this is the policy etc

  15. I don’t think that another utility company exists – that is more hated than the NJAWC.

    In NY, water bills are sent out quarterly. The reason for the “monthly” NJAWC bill is that, one monthly bill of NJAWC exceeds the quarterly water bill – anywhere. I challenge anyone to find a more expensive water/sewer bill anywhere in the country.

    Years ago, NJAWC arranged with the Township (or possibly the county), not to allow the typical homeowner, whose well is within 100 feet of their Co. pipes, to make use their own private well – other than for irrigation. Seems that was a back-room deal $$ with Township officials years ago.

    Mr. Miller, if you wish to know what you can do – for starts, it’s time to re-visit that issue.

    Secondly, their ruthlessness and arrogance in their collections is second to none. When I would receive a call from their collections dept. my practice would always be to tell them; “I’m sorry, I will not tell you when I will be sending you the balance, because I don’t want your dept. to show statistical success”. Shortly after, I would mail them the balance.

    Please inform the fed up customers who and how we can get competing companies around here.

  16. Why is the water company allowed to round UP, to the next thousand when reading your meter?! When you think about the fact that they charge sewer charges based on winter usage, it really ratches up their bottom line, for water not used! The electric & gas companies always rounds down!

  17. hope this give a little satisfaction to some of you, when i moved into my new home. i too was charged for water based on previous owners usage. however they had a 3 bedroom,1 bath with septic, i built a 7 bedroom 4 bathroom with sewer. for 3 years i was charged about $60 monthly and nothing for sewer. too bad they caught on.

  18. all i know is they rip me off every month for around $250.00 i have 2 kids and no i don’t waist water get rid of them bring compition

  19. The email address I gave was [email protected] (I am not affiliated with TLS… I just have a ‘catchall’ domain and can track and control multiple addresses). I pretty much wrote it all out. Not sure what else I can do to help… but am happy to assist with any ideas or provide any other information I can. The class action is not viable because there is a legal tarrif they have, so there is no money in it. The only viable option for a class action is with governmentmoney or donations (either coming from our own pockets). I am not saying it is not worth it… just that this means someone would have to hire a law firm for fees and not for expectations of monetary winnings in the lawsuit.

    The best we can do is ride the momentum of the Lakewood Council’s statements and keep pushing and making a big fuss.

    I don’t know legally who owns what and if NJAWC can be kicked out other than with a purchase of their infrastructure… but if we do have rights along those lines… we should make them bid yearly or once every 2 or 3 years. This way, at least, they would know that if they don’t play nice, they will be kicked out of their profitable business next time around.

    I would gladly kick a few dollars into a legal fund run by Lakewood or any other competent entity to keep NJAWC on their toes and to clean up their act.

    As an aside, I understand the frustration on the ordinance allowing wells only for irrigation – in terms of the cost issue and having to deal with NJAWC. However, this was not a back scratching to NJAWC, but out of health and other related concerns. It makes sense for safety and related concerns… but we still need to address why we pay so much more for such a basic necessity than anywhere else I am aware of!

  20. # 18… you commented “i have had some experience dealing with the press and would be more then glad to reach out to some of my contacts and solicit them to give us some press coverage.”

    TLS now has 2 running and heavily commented postings on this issue. Why not see if other media outlets you are connected to can pick up on the postings and expose them further?

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