LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Department of Water and Power is severely hampered by a 1970s-era billing system and a bimonthly billing cycle, but is doing all it can to eliminate billing delays that lead to exorbitant bills for customers, the utility’s general manager said Tuesday.

KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta Reports

The DWP has come under fire in recent weeks, since it was reported that some customers were being issued bills for thousands of dollars because of billing delays due to broken meters or other problems.

General Manager Ron Nichols defended the department during a meeting of the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee, saying only 0.25 percent of two million customers ever experience problems with their bills.

Nichols said it is DWP policy to give customers the same amount of time to pay for a retroactive bill as the length of time that bill was delayed.

“Of everything that we’re doing right now in our whole customer billing, collections and messaging, if I could waive a wand, it would be to change us to monthly billing for all of our customers,” Nichols said.

The delays mostly stem from up to 2,000 broken DWP meters during an average three-week period. Nichols said that is a small percentage of the total number of meters DWP operates.

Billing amounts for periods when a customer had a broken meter are calculated using historical water power usage for a given customer.

Nichols said an every-other-month billing regimen exacerbates the problem when a bill is delayed by compounding the amount when it is finally tallied. He said the billing cycle is from an outdated era decades ago when bills were much smaller, and it saved the department money to check meters six times per year instead of 12. The utility does not have a quick, digital way to tally and address billing delays, Nichols told the committee.

“We have a 1970s customer information system … that we’re literally holding together with bailing wire,” Nichols said.

The DWP is overhauling its customer information system. The new system is expected to come on line in early 2013. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposed budget allocates about $50 million toward completion of the new system.

Nichols also presented a new DWP bill format that will come out this month, which is supposed to make it much simpler for DWP and customers to know if there is a problem with billing.

The committee also approved Councilman Dennis Zine’s motion for City Controller Wendy Greuel to do her own audit of the DWP’s billing operation.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (9)
  1. Really says:

    DWP….Can’t get it together after 31+ years.

  2. mister s says:

    At least SOME of those billing problems are the customers fault, the same customers complaining. DWP can only read the meter if they can get to it, and yes some reading get skipped due to backlog, BUT if a person hasnt been billed in 6 months…. it’s because they are not cooperating with the meter readers. Their meter maybe indoors, locked up, or they may have too many aggressive dogs in their yard and chose to ignore notices left requesting they be locked up on a certain day. There are any number of obstacles that may prevent a reading, and the meters that are being skipped continuosly…. are likely meters that are unaccesible due to the customers lack of cooperation. I once had a temporary position reading meters for a utility, Ive been through this from their side.

    1. creating in cali says:

      Sorry Sweetie, it’s the billing system not you.

  3. REV.GREG says:

    pretty sure the Union workers will scream about the lost jobs from putting in any sort of competent billing system. They are the reason this has gone on so long. “Don’t change so I don’t lose my job”

    1. Denise says:

      Don’t make such a wild unfounded accusation. The great employees at the DWP have provided you with reliable service despite the antiquated billing system. I did not have to deal with rolling blackouts when the rest of the state was held hostage by the greedy Texas Electric Companies.

      The hard working individuals at the LADWP have been eagerly awaiting a modern billing system. The management promised new systems more than once and never delivered.

      Please refrain from making comments about things you have no personal knowledge.

    2. marcus says:

      REV.GREG. Union workers will be happy, as it takes twice the man-power to check every meters in the entire City every month.

  4. john says:

    The DWP sucks. This back billing issue was addressed nearly 10 years ago. At that time the DWP said it would upgrade the customer system 10 YEARS AGO. At the same time the DWP also said it would create a committee to handle the issue. Well here we are 10 years later and the DWP says the exact same this they said 10 years ago.
    Another thing, nothing bad has been said about the employees of DWP. So quit crying about the hard working DWP employees. Just like the DWP, your ignoring the issue of the billing system and focusing on a non issue. Talk about unfounded, your talking about something that has nothing about the topic at hand.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE