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DWP under fire for customer billing problems

April 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is under fire over billing problems reported by customers.

Criticism is continuing to mount that the LADWP is issuing late bills to customers and charging exorbitant fees.

L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine and many of his constituents have received bills several months late with fees totaling in the thousands of dollars.

Zine is also highlighting another problem. He said customers with new meters that were never connected correctly are likely to receive several years of late bills.

At a Tuesday news conference, the councilman planned to introduce a motion directing the DWP to look into the issues.

Monday, a city council committee asked their staff for guidance on how to set up a new DWP watchdog agency.

Back in March, voters approved a plan to use a quarter of 1 percent of the DWP's budget to oversee a possible watchdog organization. However, it is still unclear who would run that organization.

The DWP said more than 99 percent of customers are billed on time. The utility also said it is introducing a new billing format in May in order to make it easier to identify a delayed bill.

DWP General Manager Ron Nichols released a statement: "Over 99 percent of all LADWP bills are billed on time. Only about one-quarter of 1 percent of our customers can experience multiple periods of delayed bills." That totals about 5,000 customers.

"And I know that sounds like a big number, but when you're talking 2.1 million customers out there on the water and the power side combined, it's a number that we'd like to have it be smaller, we're working on it being smaller, but it's actually lower than what the industry average is," said Nichols.