Berliner on WSSC Billing Practices
Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, today made the following statement regarding a report on billing practices and the billing dispute resolution process of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC).
The complete text of Councilmember Berliner’s statement is below:
“Following a deluge of constituent complaints regarding recent WSSC bills, I requested our county’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) to examine WSSC’s billing practices and billing dispute resolution process. I want to commend Mr. Friedman and the Office of Consumer Protection for their report that reviewed these issues. The report confirms a need for a fair and independent forum for consumers to challenge WSSC bills.
“As the report notes, at no ‘time during the past 30 years’ has OCP received this many complaints about excessive water bills. Significantly, ‘WSSC and consumers typically assert contradictory conclusions’ regarding the cause of these high bills. WSSC asserts that consumers either ‘used more water’ or ‘had a leak,’ while consumers maintain that either ‘the meter was not properly read’ or that ‘the meter was not properly operating.’ Constituents report that these discrepancies continue well after potential leaks have been ruled out and maintain that their average household usage has not changed. These extraordinarily high bills have caused real hardships for our residents, particularly the elderly living on fixed incomes.
“Most importantly, the report highlights a ‘deficiency in the regulatory structure’—the ‘lack of independent oversight with respect to WSSC and complaints regarding WSSC bills.’ State law does not give our County that authority. As it stands, WSSC is the sole arbiter of whether a bill is correct. Consumers are clearly at a disadvantage and this needs to change. Accordingly, I will be working with our state delegation in the months ahead to create a fair and independent forum that will better serve our County’s ratepayers.”