Local

LADWP promises better customer service in ‘Bill of Rights'

A display of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Customer Bill of Rights. At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the department would
A display of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Customer Bill of Rights. At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the department would "double down" on improving the department's customer service.
Courtesy of the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

An 800-word document released by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power aims to improve the customer service reputation of the nation's largest municipal utility.

​​​At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti and LADWP officials outlined the goals of LADWP's Customer Bill of Rights, saying it would “double down” on the way the department treats its customers, creating easier access to customer billing data and rethinking the way it handles internal business practices.

https://twitter.com/MayorOfLA/status/816376444406222848

​The document is pending approval by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and a final decision is expected at the board's Jan. 17 meeting, LADWP General Manager David Wright told KPCC.

The plan was initiated by the mayor's office, which actively consulted with LADWP.

The city's more than 100-year-0ld utility delivers up to 7,200 megawatts of power and 200 billion gallons of water each year to more than a million residents.

Until this point, LADWP hadn't laid out its commitment to its customers, including what expectations customers should have, Wright said.

"We're doing what we can to make sure customers have a confidence level that we are providing excellent service," he said.

Some of LADWP's promises include re-checking utility bills when customers suspect mistakes, experiencing shorter call wait times, and internal monthly reports to the department's board of commissioners, Wright said.

If approved, the new bill of rights would go into effect on February 1, 2017.

The move comes after an independent investigation in 2016 found the department functioned under a flawed billing system, overcharging customers by $67.5 million. Last summer, Marcie Edwards, the department's seventh general manager in the past decade, announced her departure after two years on the job.

Mitchell Schwartz, who is running against Mayor Garcetti in the upcoming mayoral election, called the proposed bill of rights a "set of half-promises."

“What the DWP needs is fundamental, structural reform,” Schwartz said in a statement. “As someone who has worked for the DWP in the past, I know the problems they have and I know how to fix them.”

Consumer Watchdog was also lukewarm on the announcement, saying in a statement that the customer bill of rights was a step in the right direction but that the department still needs a "bureaucratic overhaul."

And as the Los Angeles Times notes, drilling down into the fine print reveals no specific legal protections for ratepayers.