If you purchased a water-treatment system after a free in-home water test, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact our office immediately for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn your rights.
The Deceptive Water Treatment Marketing Scheme
Imagine being deceived into believing the water from your tap, that you and your family use every day, is unsafe. Even worse, what if you were unfairly convinced that the only solution to this “problem” is to purchase an expensive water softening system that you do not need because your water is perfectly safe. This is exactly what happened to our clients, and it is exactly why we took legal action when we learned about a misleading in-home water testing scheme designed to sell water-softening systems for thousands of dollars more than comparable products available over the counter.
The In-Home Water Test
As part of this scheme, the water system salesperson approaches you at Home Depot. He will offer gift cards or other benefits in exchange for your contact information to come to your home to conduct an in-home water test. The test is performed by dropping a chemical into your tap water which turns it a different color. This test leads you to believe there are contaminants in your water that make it unsafe. What the salesperson does not tell you is that the test only reveals minerals that are present in most tap, and even spring, water, and that the test cannot show your water is unsafe to drink. You then receive a sales pitch to purchase an expensive water-treatment system based on a mistaken fear that it is necessary to keep you and your family safe.
Consumer Warnings About In-Home Water Tests
The Florida Attorney General's Office has warned consumers as follows:
Fears about the purity of our water have increased dramatically in recent years, leading consumers to worry about the safety of their drinking water. News reports of leaking landfills, corroding lead pipes and deterioration of gasoline storage tanks have painted a gloomy picture of toxic wastes, pesticides and other chemicals seeping into both well and municipal water supplies. Although some contaminants have been found in some water supplies, most households using water from public sources should have few concerns. Predictably, some unscrupulous salespeople prey upon concerned consumers by using scare tactics and fraudulent practices to sell their water treatment devices.
Avoid “free” home water tests.
Fraudulent sellers that advertise “free home water testing” may only be interested in selling you their water treatment device, whether you need it, or not. In performing the test, the salesperson may add tablets or droplets of chemicals to your tap water, explaining that the water will change color or that particles will form if the water is contaminated. When the water changes color before your eyes, the salesperson may warn you that the water is polluted and may cause cancer. In almost all of these cases, any water (even spring water) would “fail” the company's test.
See Florida Attorney General's Office, “How to Protect Yourself: Water Treatment Devices” at http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/main/3d0fd1650fc920c485256cc900698282!opendocument
WATER TESTING SHOULD BE DONE IN AN INDEPENDENT CERTIFIED LABORATORY
Our own local water provider, the Escambia County Utilities Authority, has warned consumers not to rely on in-home water testing as it is unreliable and can be misleading. The ECUA recommends all testing of water be done in an independent certified laboratory.
We have recently become aware of several different approaches by some companies seeking to sell water treatment devices to homeowners in our community: a mailbox or door hanger package regarding an alleged community water test (there is no such test being conducted); mass mailings to homeowners warning of water quality issues; and also water test kits offered to homeowners in a local box store home improvement center or other retail establishments. We urge our ECUA customers to be wary of any unsolicited efforts by companies to test their water, with the ultimate end being the attempted sale of a (usually quite expensive) home water filtration or treatment device.
Additionally, we urge our customers to visit the ECUA website at www.ecua.fl.gov to see our annual Water Quality Report, and to learn more about the water that ECUA provides daily to our community. Our water meets all state and federal water quality standards.
Be Wary of Claims of Government Approval
Sellers will sometimes claim that certain governmental agencies require or recommend that households use water purification systems, or that the
government has approved the seller's particular method of in-home water testing. These claims are false. If you see an EPA registration number on a water-treatment product label, it means only that the manufacturer has registered its product with the Environmental Protection Agency, but not that the EPA has tested or approved the product.
Determine the Quality Of Your Water Independently
Ask your municipal water provider for a copy of the latest Annual Water Quality Report, which includes testing results of your public water supply and compares them to state and federal standards available from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection or the Federal EPA. If you use well water, ask your local health department if it offers free water testing.
You may additionally have your water tested by a state-certified private laboratory. A list of state-certified laboratories is available by calling the State Laboratory Certification Office at (904)791-1599. Tests for bacteria usually range from $15 to $45, while tests for chemical contamination can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Decide what you need.
Read more from the ECUA about in-home water testing at http://www.ecua.fl.gov/system/files/Customer%20Pipeline%202016/CPNOV2016Web.pdf.
TWW Has Filed Suit to Protect Consumers From This Fraud and Seek Compensation
Florida has strong laws in place to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair trade practices like this one. When we learned about this deceptive in-home water testing and sales scheme, we filed a lawsuit against the water-treatment manufacturer and retailer, as well as Home Depot, for their respective roles in this unfair and deceptive water-testing scheme. All three Defendants filed a motion with the court asking that our clients' claims for damages be dismissed. The court rejected the arguments by the Defendants and found that our clients' allegations that the in-home water testing scheme constitute deceptive and unfair conduct. With the court's ruling, this case can now continue to proceed toward trial. We at Taylor, Warren & Weidner are looking forward to holding these companies accountable for amassing significant profits by taking advantage of Florida consumers.
If you believe you fell victim to a similar deceptive marketing scheme or if you purchased a water-treatment system after an in-home water test, contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to learn your rights.
You can read the court's opinion denying the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss in our water treatment class here as well as other articles issued by the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office on in-home water testing below.
Florida Attorney General's Office article on the deceitfulness of in-home water tests: http://myfloridalegal.com/__85256CC5006DFCC3.nsf/0/3D0FD1650FC920C485256CC900698282?Open&Highlight=0,in-home,water,test
Federal Trade Commission's article on in-home water tests: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2013/08/after-weather-emergency-it-safe-drink-water