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Call Kurtis: Free Water Test Kits Might Not Be What You Think

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With a new baby, Dean Skultety put in a water purifier in his home.

"I wanted to be healthy and have healthy water to drink," he said.

Months later Skultety noticed a free water testing kit inside Home Depot and decided to give it a try.

He took a small water sample, filled out the card inside the kit and mailed it to the company on the envelope, Pure Water in Penryn.

He says, he then got a call from a local number claiming to be RainSoft.

Skultety remembers the conversation he had, "She said they got metals in the water, and it's unsafe to drink and we need to come to your house and re-test it."

He says when he asked to see his water results, the woman on the phone refused.

"I'm pretty sure they're trying to get people to come to your house and sell you a water filtration system," said Skultety.

According to Elena Bailey of Alabama, that's exactly what happened to her when she sent in the Home Depot water test kit. Bailey also describes an alarming call from RainSoft.

"That my drinking water was very close to not being drinkable," she said.

But she says after that in-home hard-sell to buy a RainSoft system, her county tested her water and said it was just fine.

Now a class-action case has been filed against Home Depot and RainSoft claiming the free water tests, don't test the water safety at all.

We reached out to RainSoft and Home Depot. Both admitted to us that the water test is only meant to identify mineral content, and is not designed to detect contaminants.

But consumer attorney Stuart Talley says if customers using the free tests are told their water is unsafe, that is misleading.

"That would be illegal under California law," he said. "If your water doesn't taste good or it's hard, most people know that they don't need a test for that."

Home Depot confirms to us it's been in partnership with RainSoft since 2005.

"If anyone selling on behalf of the Home Depot used scare tactics, it's unacceptable," said spokesperson Matt Harrigan.

RainSoft says its independent dealers agree to make no statements or promises that are likely to mislead consumers.

And the local dealer, PureWater, which also goes by Winsler, denies saying there were metals in Skultety's water and says the company conducts itself with integrity.

Skultety disagrees saying, "It's a good way to make money, but it's pretty sleazy." He's glad he didn't buy another water system.

"If I had something on paper that said this is unsafe, I probably would've paid the money," said Skultety.

Home Depot says it has taken action against some of its authorized dealers but wouldn't say how many or which ones.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, "No in-home test can determine the necessity of a water treatment system and no system can remove all contaminants."

As to date, there's been no resolution in the class action case. Many motions and counter-claims have been filed since it began. The next court date is Nov. 16, in Illinois Circuit Court.

But Talley says because Home Depot's logo is on the water test kits, it may have liability if fraud is proven.

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