Public Utilities Department announces 343 customers overcharged by $420 due to meter misreading

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The city utilities department announced Thursday that 343 water customers were overcharged as much as $420 due to meter misreading, possibly answering questions that left residents dumbfounded and city officials searching for solutions in recent weeks.

The Public Utilities Department completed an internal review after it, city council members, the mayor’s office and local media received dozens of complaints from residents who say their bills incorrectly showed skyrocketing water usage.

The department found there was indeed a problem related to meter reading at customers in Carmel Valley, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos. Of 2,041 meters in that area, 323 were misread. which resulted in recent overcharges ranging from $186 to $420, city staff said today at the City Council Environment Committee meeting.

They will be receiving refunds.

“It’s very important to the PUD that we deal with this issue,” Public Utilities Department Director Vic Bianes said.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer last week directed the department to investigate every complaint of high water bills. The city auditor will also be completing a review of the department’s billing practices by June.

The city is implementing several measures to help ensure accuracy of water bills: requiring PUD supervisors to sign off on daily reports from meter readers, adding security protocols to ensure only certain staff can input data, improving automated alerts that flag spikes in water usage, adding a second spot check review of meter reads to ensure accuracy and adding an informational insert in water bills about how customers can read their own meters, according to the mayor’s office.

Other reasons why customers’ bills could have increased are a 6.9 percent rate jump that took effect on Aug. 1, a one-time billing schedule change that extended the normal 60-day billing period to up to 70 days late last year, warmer months that could contribute to increased usage and leaks in homes and irrigation systems, according to the mayor’s office.

Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry released the following statement after the announcement.

I commend the Public Utilities Department for conducting its own internal audit to uncover discrepancies in meter reading, and I thank the department for actively participating in the review by the City Auditor. I am also pleased that the PUD has adopted our proposals to protect ratepayers’ water service and work with those who are contesting their bills on appropriate payments until the audit is complete. My office will continue to be a resource to residents who are challenging their bills as we await the results from the City Auditor.

Customers with concerns or questions about their bill can call (619) 515-3500 or email customercare@sandiego.gov.

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