Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities completed the launch of Seattle’s new utility customer information and billing system Monday. The new customer information system will process 5.5 million City Light and SPU bills and collect about $1.8 billion in revenue annually. Over its projected lifetime, the system will handle some $21 billion in customer bills and payments, while serving more than 400,000 commercial, residential and industrial customers. It replaces a 15-year-old suite of database management software, which has lasted five years beyond its expected life and is no longer supported by its vendor.
A one-time technical error in the eBilling process resulted in 3,041 City Light and SPU customers receiving multiple emails notifying them that their bills were available for viewing online or scheduled for automatic payment. Although, the information in the emails was correct, when some of those customers opened the eBilling link, they were shown other customers’ bills in addition to their own. All the affected bills were in a batch dated Sept. 4 and sent Sept. 5. The utilities are working to determine how many customers opened those links and how many were affected by this issue.
As soon as the problem was discovered, the utilities shut down access to the online eBilling system. Monday evening, service was restored for customers to pay bills issued before Sept. 4.
No financial information, such as Social Security information or credit/debit card numbers, was disclosed by the error. The information on a bill includes the customer’s name, address, account number, usage data and any Utility Discount Program discount. City Light and SPU will directly contact all customers affected by the error.
Customers have been assigned new account numbers with the change. Anyone who uses online banking to pay utility bills should update the account number to ensure proper payment.
Additionally, customers who call the utilities with questions should anticipate longer than usual wait times to speak to a representative as employees become more familiar with how to use the new system over the next few weeks.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the technical error are available online at www.seattle.gov/util/NewBillingSystem/billErrors/index.htm .
Answers to questions and other information about the new system are available online at www.seattle.gov/billingchanges .
Here is a timeline of the events:
3:30 a.m. – Email notifications of the utility bills dated Sept. 4 are sent.
9:48 a.m. – Email bill notification problem identified.
10:30 a.m. – Utilities shut down online billing.
6:40 p.m. – Online billing system restored for customers with bills dated before Sept. 4.
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.
Seattle Public Utilities provides essential services. We deliver pure mountain drinking water, recycling and composting that lead the nation, and sewer and drainage systems to protect our local waterways. These services safeguard your health and our shared environment, and help keep Seattle the best place to live.