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Austin Energy to credit customers with high fall bills

Thursday, February 1, 2018 by Katy McElroy

The city of Austin has been investigating August and September’s unusual water bill activity. Yesterday, Austin Energy, which manages the billing for city utilities including water, announced that it will be sending out refunds in the form of bill credits to around 7,400 customers. The city plans to send out a letter to those customers by Feb. 15; customers should expect to receive their letters by Feb. 28. These credits are “not large, averaging approximately $20 and not exceeding $80 in most instances,” according to a statement by the city. In addition, “approximately 700 customers who had significantly higher September use than in previous years and who may qualify for an additional High Bill Administrative Adjustment if their elevated use was unintended or unexplained” will receive a letter by Feb. 28 as well. Jackie Sargent, general manager of Austin Energy, apologized for the confusion and customer inconvenience in the utility’s statement. “We should have found this faster and we should have found it ourselves,” she said. “We should have had better safeguards against unreasonable water meter reads. We apologize to those affected by this anomaly and we hold ourselves accountable for improving our processes so that they do not recur. Customers must have confidence that their utility bills are measured and billed accurately. We are working with Austin Water and have put in place additional protections that will provide more data when there are questions about a water bill.” Sargent also explained that as one of these safeguards, meter-reading technicians have begun photographing all residential water meter readings, which amounts to “well over 200,000 per month. And there is more that we can do and are doing,” she promised. View the full statement here for more information, including the current state of the investigation and the utility’s process for determining bill credit amounts.

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