South Bay Water Customers Overbilled, Will Get Refunds

Some residents believe the extra charges were not accidental

Tens of thousands of water customers in the South Bay will be getting refunds after an overbilling problem, water officials said Thursday.

Some homeowners, however, said the bumped-up rate was not a mistake. They believe it was intentional.

The overbilling, which affected about 250,000 customers, is being investigated, so its unclear when or if the refunds are coming.

"Right now, they're bilking us," said customer Rita Benton, who is a San Jose Water Co. customer and is fed up with what she says are unnecessary high rates and billing mistakes."They're not even acknowledging there's a double billing involved when you switch from billing in advance to billing in the rears."

San Jose Water, which provides water to San Jose and neighboring areas, admitted to a mistake in their January billing that overcharged customers to the tune of nearly $2 million.

"We believe we acted and continue to act in compliance with the rules and regulations that were operating," said John Tang, vice president of regulatory affairs and government relations for San Jose Water.

Tang said the average residential customer will receive a refund of $5.70. But some customers said that offer is low, and the company needs to pay up more, suggesting as much as $50 or more per customer.

"It wasn't a one-time, oops error," Benton said. "This was something they did in their billing system for decades."

The California's Public Utilities Commission is investigating the issue. Customers will have to wait for the results before seeing how much cash they'll get back.

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