City of Charlottetown paying back water and sewer customers after overcharging on bills

The city of Charlottetown will be paying back about $12,000 to 950 water and sewer customers who were overcharged after an error adjusting rates.

The city increased rates for water and sewer in the last budget for the first time since 2012, and an error when applying the new rates led to those customers overpaying.

“So the bills that went out it was a three month period but there was only one month under the new rate. So it’s about a $13 difference in their bill,” said Richard MacEwen, manager of the city’s water and sewer utility. 

MacEwen said the difference was noticed by some customers, who brought it to the attention of staff. With 950 customers affected, the city is paying back $12,350, which will come in the form of a rebate on their next bill.

Human error

MacEwen explained it was human error when the new rates were being put into the system that caused the problem.

On Charlottetown bills, customers are charged two separate rates — a standard rate, which doesn’t change month to month, and demand, which is based on usage. Staff put the demand charge in for the standard rate amount when inputting the change. 

In addition the two systems used to generate the bills use separate units of measurement, adding to the confusion.

Richard MacEwen, manager of Charlottetown’s water and sewer utility, says because rates have not been updated in seven years, staff may have been rusty. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

“So in our rate schedule we show it in millimetres and in our financial system it’s in imperial units,” he said.

“Even myself when I’m looking at 16 millimetre, 19 millimetre and converting it five-eighths inch, three-quarter inch, I think about it each time.”

MacEwan said the city apologizes for the error and said it is permanently fixed now so it shouldn’t happen again, but there are improvements to be made. 

“I think it’s good for us to make sure that we have completely moved into the metric system, so some of our systems are still referencing imperial units and I guess it’s time for us to move into the metric system.”

The rebate will not cost the city anything because the money was not budgeted for. 

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