Thursday, May 4, 2017

Clarifying Fox13's story on high bills

Around 1 p.m. on May 4, a Fox13 reporter contacted us about a customer, Karen Hill, who had a high bill complaint. We agreed to an on-camera interview for 3:45 p.m. 

At 4:14 p.m., Fox13 posted a story, “MLGW Bills Skyrocket More Than $1,000 For Some Customers,” on its website, without comment from MLGW, and including a second customer, Yolanda Fleming, whom the reporter did not identify before or during interview with MLGW Director of Corporate Communications Gale Jones Carson in order to give us a chance to respond.

We learned about Ms. Fleming when the story was posted, which occurred after the on-camera interview concluded. When asked later, the reporter stated that Fleming wasn’t mentioned during the interview because she wasn’t interviewed on camera. Fox13 updated its story at 6:10 p.m.

The story remains inaccurate.

Fox13 reported: “I understand the house is bigger,” Hill said. “But your water usage is water usage. What you use is what you should pay for.”
Hill provided copies of her bills to FOX13 Thursday. Records show she was billed in Dec. 2016 for $242.00, and she said that amount is what she considers reasonable for her home.

Ms. Hill’s initial bill, dated Nov. 16, was only for the deposit and connection fee. At the time her services were connected, we informed Ms. Hill that she had a water leak and referred her to a contractor. When asked about it later, she told us that she had fixed the leak herself – ultimately, she would deny that she had a leak at all. Her first bill for services was dated Dec. 16; all MLGW services were estimated.

She received a delayed bill notice in January as we worked to verify the accuracy of her bill. Her Feb. 20 was for 63 days of service, including actual reads on gas and water but not electric due to a locked gate; the total bill, including a past due balance, was $1615.59.

We verified the meter readings in February and March. On Feb. 28, her bill was delayed again for investigation; her March 20 bill also included a transferred balance from a previous address.

Ms. Hill continues to dispute her bill, which is why her services remain active.

In regards to Ms. Fleming, before April 2016, her water services had been estimated for several months. On April 18, 2016, we sent her a letter noting that her water service had been underestimated; she was backbilled. A few days later, we investigated and discovered that she had a leak on her water line and we referred her to a contractor. Her utility bill was eventually over $3400.

She requested a water leak adjustment and further investigation led to an adjustment of the backbilled amount, reducing the amount by $425.24. Though her church paid to bring her bill current, Ms. Fleming was able to setup a deferred payment plan for the backbilled amount. Since then, she has not received a bill exceeding $1,000.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is dedicated to working with its customers. Water leaks can occur unbeknown to the customer or MLGW until the meter is read or the leak is otherwise discovered and that’s why we offer the water leak adjustment. Customers, who experience leaks, can request an adjustment within the first 12 months – just like Fleming did because there was a leak.

Customers can contact Customer Care to discuss their bills as well as request re-reads of their meters. Though neither Hill nor Fleming had smart meters at the time of their billing issue, smart meters alert MLGW to leaks sooner and allow customers to monitor their own usage on a daily basis.

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