Satisfaction with AE takes hit, councilwoman says

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin City Council will take up billing errors and problems with the appeals process at Austin Energy during Thursday’s meeting.

This comes as customer satisfaction at the utility is down significantly in the last five years and after a yearlong KXAN investigation in to the issue.

Overall customer satisfaction with Austin Energy has dropped from 82 percent in 2008 to 65 percent in 2013, according to a resolution sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole . The resolution calls for several changes to the appeals process at Austin Energy, which also handles the billing for Austin Water.

The resolution call for City Manager Mark Ott to “propose an appointment process for utility hearings officers and necessary code amendments that ensure the highest levels of impartiality and customer service in the dispute process.”

It further directs him to “work with the Discount Steering Committee, consumer advocates including the National Consumer Law Center, the Electric Utility Commission, the Resource Management Commission, and
the Water and Wastewater Commission for their review and approval of rules governing the administrative hearing process, the availability of customer rights information regarding billing disputes, and the reporting of these activities.”

“Its so important that people know they have a right to dispute what is on their bill and that they actually have someone that they can reach out to to explain what is going on,” said Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole. “We need to make sure that we let people know that we do not want them to have billing errors and that we’re doing all that we can to solve that problem.”

Cole began working on the resolution in November, after a KXAN investigation uncovered thousands of people were filing formal complaints about unusually high water bills. An interview with Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis revealed the utility had never done an audit of its water billing system and could not say how accurate that system performs.

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