Mayor Parker: Water bill overcharges date back to 1986

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But Mayor Annise Parker is adamant the city didn't make a mistake; she says the city just changed the rules (KTRK)

After an ABC-13 investigation discovered the city of Houston overcharged hundreds of thousands of customers on their water bill for years, we went to the mayor for reaction to the news. She's adamant the city didn't make a mistake, she just changed the rules.

These bad late fees go back to 1986 -- 29 years ago.

Mayor Parker told us Thursday the rebates going out to 241,000 water customers were not the result of a mistake, just a change in city attitude.

"It wasn't a mistake originally. It was an attitude that we weren't going to give you credit for partial payments. And then we tried to correct that, there was just an error in the algorithm in our system," Mayor Parker said.

For decades, the city charged you late fees based on every dollar you owed, giving no credit for any partial payments you made. The city discovered the bad policy in 2013.

The city changed the rules then, but the mayor says the city made an innocent computer mistake trying to correct it.

So now it's finally right and the rebates -- all $24.9 million of them -- are going out to Houstonians.
"They made money off of me off of their careless mistake and that's not fair," said Jessica Brown who received a $30 credit on her bill last month.

Angry, upset? Don't be says mayor Parker.

"How can they be upset? We corrected some 40-year-old policy, and now we're much more customer friendly," she said.

It may be a 40-year-old policy. You may've paid bad late fees for decades. But the city is only coughing up cash for the last two years worth of overcharges. Anything older than that apparently is water under the bridge.

"As a citizen I can tell you, yeah I would want especially at the $411,000 rate, I would want interest on it. But I don't believe that's going to happen," said City of Houston Controller Ronald Green.

In the meantime, if you owe the city money and can't pay it all, give them a call they say late fees can be waived if you get into a payment plan.
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