Austin Water issuing refunds to some customers after complaints of high bills

FILE - Water sprinkler (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Water sprinkler (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the past few weeks, Austin Water and Austin Energy have been busy fielding calls from customers regarding high water bills and how they believe the bills and water usage are incorrect.

Austin Water says they are checking accounts and have issued at least one credit to a customer.

Two weeks ago, KXAN News spoke with Jason Jepson about his water bill. Days after our interview, Jepson says Austin Water came out and replaced his meter saying it was damaged and hard to read. The utility company also issued him a refund of nearly $1,000 for the incorrect billing.

Days after we interviewed South Austin resident Jason Jepson, he says Austin water came back out and replaced his meter. They told him it was damaged and hard to read. Almost immediately he says his water usage significantly dropped.

“They were billing us for 1,000 gallons of water a day almost. It went down to less than 100 gallons,” said Jepson.

But the best part comes next. After Austin Water billed him nearly $2,000 for July and August, Jason just found out he’s receiving a refund and getting $1,000 of that back.

“So we’ll get 3 separate credits that will continually bring down our bill to average what we were paying prior to the recent spike in usage,” says Jepson.

Austin Energy tells us so far their investigation hasn’t shown a widespread billing issue. In fact they say their billing system is 98% accurate.

But Jason believes there are more people out there who also deserve money back.

Jason says, “If one thing your investigation has shown over and over it’s that if the news and city council aren’t putting pressure on Austin Energy they’re not going to do anything. I don’t believe this would’ve happened without you guys coming out raising awareness and allowing us to give a platform to talk about it.”

Jason Jepson was issued a refund by Austin Water after complaining about an abnormally high water usage on his bill.
Jason Jepson was issued a refund by Austin Water after complaining about an abnormally high water usage on his bill.

On Wednesday afternoon, the issue of abnormally high water usage billing was brought up at the Public Utilities Council Committee. Representatives form Austin Energy and Austin Water were there to answer questions and at least 2 dozen concerned customers showed up to voice their opinions.

Austin Energy officials tell KXAN so far there is no evidence of a widespread billing issue. They claim their billing system is 98 percent accurate.

Officials with Austin Water say they also don’t believe there is a widespread meter problem but of course they’re still investigating. City council members, which make up the public utilities committee are asking for a 3rd party to do an audit of their billing system.

In regards to refunds, as the investigation continues Austin Water says if they find a mistake on their end they will credit your money back.

This is not the first time we’ve uncovered problems with Austin Water bills. Last year, a KXAN investigation revealed customers were overbilled at least 550 times in 2012.The majority of those cases were because workers were reading the meters wrong.

Corix Utilities was responsible for reading all of the city’s water and electric meters. It claimed to have a 99% accuracy rate.

We checked today and Austin Water extended a 5-year contract with Corix in 2013.

Editor’s note: According to Austin Water, an investigation into Jason’s bill showed the actual refund was $8638.63. After further investigation, officials with Austin Water confirm Jason Jepsons water meter was in fact replaced. It was checked for accuracy and passed all tests. It was pulled to eliminate any concern the customer had that the field test was inadequate. Officials also say an irrigation audit was done and showed he was using the amount of water he was being billed for.

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