Viewers share stories of water bill troubles

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AUSTIN (KXAN) - A KXAN investigation uncovered thousands of complaints from Austin Energy customers about mistakes in their water bills.  Austin Energy is in charge of billing for Austin Water.

Since our investigation aired Monday, dozens of customers have contacted KXAN with similar issues and complaints about high water bills. KXAN found 5,047 complaints to Austin Energy about water bills so far this year.

“I was very surprised to receive my August,” said one emailer. “COA bill and it was a jaw dropper when I saw an amount of $2018.74 of which water was $1,259.18.  I called the City and shared my concern when the kind lady on the phone offered to put me on a payment plan.  I explained that there was no way that I had used 109,800 gallons of water in one month period of time and asked her to look at my usage over the last 20+ years at this residence.”

Another said: “My nightmare started in July of 2010 when my water bill was sky high I was averaging 8,000 to 9,000 gallons per month and that month my consumption showed 65,000 gallons. I am a single mother of three and that summer my kids were with their dad so I was the ONLY person in the house.”

Austin Energy has 150 employees who work in the Customer Care department, assisting customers with billing issues

“All of our customer service representatives are trained to assist with billing issues,” a spokesperson told KXAN in an email Tuesday. “More complex billing issues or escalations may be turned over to a Customer Solutions Group within Customer Care.”

Austin Energy said customers should call their Customer Care line at 512-494-9400 for billing concerns. They note, in some cases, a high water bill will take 2-3 days to process because the water meter or meters must be tested and the meter reads verified before any adjustments can be made.

The utility processes 20,000 to 25,000 bills every day for some 450,000 accounts.

If a dispute over a water bill cannot be resolved, there is a hearing and so far this year, Austin Energy reports there have been 17 water hearings, 13 of those were about billing adjustments and five of them required adjustments.  Those adjustments do not include the ones made without requiring a hearing.

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