Some 12,500 Seattle residents received inaccurate electricity bills this week, reflecting charges roughly twice as high as their actual balances.
Magnolia resident Michele Marchi was “shocked” when the fortnightly bill she received from Seattle City Light this week was around $ 720, down from around $ 240 in the last billing cycle and around $ 400 in. the same period last year.
âI said to myself, ‘How? We haven’t really turned on our Christmas lights as often and our overall usage is down from last year, âMarchi said in a telephone interview Thursday.
So Marchi posted on neighborhood social media site Nextdoor, asking if others had seen similar increases, and found that many of her neighbors had also received outrageous bills.
âIf I hadn’t been careful I might have thought it was a really high bill, but it wasn’t just me,â she said.
While City Light customers were expected to record a net increase of around 2.1% at the start of the year, an error in the city’s system has caused duplicate charges for some customers who use e-invoicing.
âThe system was billing customers for use at the 2021 and 2022 tariffs, essentially doubling the bill total,â City Lights spokesperson Jenn Strang said in a written statement on Thursday.
According to Strang, about 12,500 residential customer bills processed Monday night reflected the error, or about 3% of the city’s roughly 430,000 residential meters.
âAbout 600 payments were applied to the accounts between Jan. 3 and Jan. 6, with about a third of those payments appearing to be payments on past balances and not tied to the Jan. 3 invoice,â Strang said.
But the city was able to prevent further invoices with the wrong charges from being processed after it noticed that the first invoices were incorrect.
âWe learned about the problem in time to prevent the output of paper invoices and the processing of payments for these auto-pay customers. However, customers who signed up for electronic invoicing may have received an email alert with the incorrect invoice, âStrang said.
For restitution, the city “will reprocess all incorrect invoices and send the revised invoices to affected customers,” noting that it expects to issue new accurate invoices by the end of the week.
For bimonthly customers, the invoice reflects a period from the end of October to January 3; for monthly customers, the invoices covered consumption from the end of November to January 3.
Customers who have already paid the bill should contact 206-684-3000, and the city will “remedy the situation with an expedited refund process.”
According to Strang, 7,300 customers signed up for e-invoicing “may have received an email alert that an invoice was ready with the incorrect amount.”
âAbout 3,000 of them are on auto-pay and may have received an email saying that a payment was due for an incorrect amount,â Strang said, noting that those payments had been halted before they had could be processed.
A similar notice was posted on the city website.
In September, the city reached a $ 3.5 million settlement in a trial against Seattle City Light filed by residents who received incorrectly high bills. The August 2019 lawsuit says Seattle City Light incorrectly billed some of its customers based on an estimate of electricity use, rather than meter reading.