DATE: February 11, 2015 6:41:22 PM PST

LADWP NEWS ALERT

As many of you know, NBC4 aired a story Monday night regarding our customer billing system and bill estimates.
The response below (and attached) was prepared and is being shared with you at the request of General Manager Marcie Edwards and Board of Water and Power Commission President Mel Levine who feel strongly that we need to set the record straight and share information about bill estimates with you.

To that end, the below information has been posted online at www.ladwpnews.com and is being sent to you so that you have our response to the misleading story and the facts about bill estimating. 

We hope you find the information useful.

Fact Check: NBC4 Report on Estimated Bills is Unsupported and Misleading

February 11, 2015

In a story that aired Monday February 9th on NBC4 and posted on their website, LADWP was accused of using a "secret formula" to estimate customer bills. This assertion is misleading and incorrect in several respects. 

First, the headline and broadcast report leaves the impression that LADWP routinely overcharges all customers and that it engages in a conspiracy by using less than transparent billing procedures.  This is factually wrong. DWP is committed to accurate and transparent billing. 

Second, the accusations that were made are not supported in either the online or broadcast story. The primary customer featured in story states clearly "'There is no formula. I think they make it up as they go along." This is in direct contradiction to the headline and primary content of the story. The other source used to support the accusation of this conspiracy is an attorney with no direct knowledge of LADWP and its practices.

DWP's process for billing customers, and the challenges we faced implementing a new system, have been communicated openly and directly for the past year. We refer to information published at www.ladwp.com/billinginfo , including a letter from our General Manager Marcie Edwards, the Mayor's Dashboard, which tracks our progress in improving the customer experience, etc.  LADWP simply does not use secret formulas or engage in dishonest practices in preparing our customer’s bills.  We provided reporter Joel Grover with the method used to estimate bills in writing and he referred to it on air.  We have also posted this information online at www.ladwp.com/BillingInfo and on our news page at www.ladwpnews.com.

 Estimated billing is a common and necessary practice across the utility industry, and LADWP goes to great lengths to ensure that its estimated billing is as accurate as possible. Moreover, estimated billing is always a temporary measure until an accurate meter read can be obtained. Estimated bills are always adjusted to conform to actual water or power usage following a meter read.

We encourage any customer who has a question about their bill to contact us at 800-DIAL-DWP (800-342-5397).  Any customer who has tried to have their billing problems addressed without satisfaction are also encouraged to contact General Manager Marcie Edwards directly at www.TellMeDWP.com . 

Why is My Bill Estimated and How is it Calculated?

Bill estimation is a standard practice used by all utilities when an actual meter read is not available for billing purposes. This can occur for a variety of reasons, and the most common is when a meter reader is unable to access a customer’s meter due to a locked gate or the presence of an animal.

LADWP is able to obtain actual meter reads for approximately 95% of our customers. Approximately 5% of our customers on any given month receive estimated bills.

 When a meter read is not able to be obtained, LADWP’s billing system generates an “Estimated Bill”.  The estimate is calculated based on one of the below methods, based on what data is actually available:

 Method #1:  The estimated is calculated based on the daily water and/or electricity use during the same billing period in the previous year.  This formula is as follows:  Actual Consumption  Number of days from the same period as last year = Daily Rate of Use (DRU).  DRU  Number of days in the current period = estimated bill

 Method #2:  If there is no data available for the previous year, we use the billing period prior to the current bill period and generate an estimated bill based on that data.

 Method #3:  If there is no actual meter read data available for either of the previous scenarios, we estimate based on consumption data for similar sized properties in the customer’s neighborhood.

 More complex cases, where the above data is not available, are handled manually by our billing staff, as opposed to being generated automatically by our billing system.  Manual estimation occurred in less than ½ of 1% of our bills over the past 90 days according to our Customer Service staff.

When an actual meter read is obtained following the estimated meter read, LADWP corrects the estimated bills and credits for overpayment or bills the customer for underpayment and allows customers who experienced a delayed bill to pay the amount owed over time.

Any customer who believes his/her billing may not be accurate is encouraged to contact us at (800)DIAL-DWP (800-342-5397) for a review of the bill. We also have customer service centers across the city to assist customers with billing questions and concerns.

Winifred Yancy
LADWP Neighborhood Council Liaison
winifred.yancy@ladwp.com

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