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'Customer Bill Of Rights' Unveiled To Earn Back LADWP Customers' Trust

LOS ANGELES ( — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday unveiled a proposed "Customer Bill of Rights" that he vowed will improve service for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers.

"I want to make sure that people here in this city get good customer service," the mayor said.

The proposal promises that call wait times won't exceed three minutes, billing questions will get a response within 24 hours, 95 percent of bills will be sent within three days of a meter read, any bill showing three times the average use will get an automatic review, and defective meters will be replaced within 90 days.

Customers will receive rebates or credits if the guarantees are not met.

On Tuesday, the utility's board of commissioners delayed a vote on the so-called "Bill of Rights for a couple of weeks to allow for public comment.

"If approved, I have full confidence in the Department of Water and Power's ability to meet each of these goals because I know a few years ago we wouldn't have been able to meet these promises," Garcetti said.

When the city council confirmed David Wright as the LADWP's general manager in September, Garcetti said one of the first tasks he wanted him to undertake was to develop and implement a customer bill of rights.

"We've been here over 100 years as a utility. And until today, we haven't really put our commitment forward to you on service guarantees and refunds if we fail to meet our guarantees," said Wright.

The department is ready to stand by the bill of rights thanks to the increased personnel that have been hired over the last two years, including 300 customer service representatives and several hundred new billers, according to Wright.

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said a critical component missing in the proposed bill of rights is independent, third-party oversight over billing disputes.

"I think it's a bunch of crock," said LADWP customer Patricia Thomas, who was disputing a $520 water bill. "I worked over 40 years of my life, raised my children in this home so I would have somewhere to stay. And now they're going to take more of my retirement?"

"I'm willing to see what happens. But right now, I don't believe them," she added.

Wright said the LADWP intended to earn back the trust of its customers, and the proposed bill of rights is a start.

The utility has been under fire due to a series of scandals, including a glitchy billing system implementation that led to a class-action settlement that is expected to pay $67.5 million in refunds to customers.

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