CHICAGO (CBS) – Having trouble with the Department of Water Management’s customer service?
CBS 2 Investigators have shown lots of Chicagoans getting hosed by the city. To help you resolve some common water billing problems, we read through their entire customer service manual so you can advocate for yourself.
What does a customer service representative have access to?
- All representatives use “Banner,” a billing and accounting software that researches customer account information. An extensive list of what they can view can be found on page 35 of the manual. Some of these items include:
- History of all customer service notes and calls
- History of all meter reads
- Consumption information
- The ability to look up past and existing service orders
- Meter reading information
What documents can you request about your account?
- Please see the chart below for what you can receive, or consult page 265 of the manual for further details.
- You can, however, receive Service Order Reports through a Department of Water Management Freedom of Information Act. These reports include meter inspections, plumbing reports, and more. To request these documents, provide email: DWMfoia@cityofchicago.org
- In addition to billing information, the Department of Finance maintains call logs, which contain notes about each call. You can request these documents by emailing: DOFfoia@cityofchicago.org
Is it possible to speak to a supervisor?
- Yes, you should always be able to speak to a supervisor. Page 23 of the manual says, “It is ultimately improper to deny a customer the opportunity to speak to a Supervisor as customers have the right to ask for one.”
- Furthermore, the representative is not allowed to say a supervisor is unavailable. If one is truly unavailable, there is always a back-up supervisor, with the same level of authority, on staff.
If your issue is not resolved, how do you escalate the request?
- For complex billing issues that require a detailed review of your account, you should request an escalation. The city refers to these issues as “Out of Scope” items. More details about escalations can be found on page 27 of the manual.
My bill seems incorrect?
- The representative should check the “Ledger Card,” which contains:
- A breakdown of the bill
- Payments and dates of payments
- Adjustments and dates of adjustments
- Water charges
- Sewer charges
- Garbage charges
- Penalty charges
- Size of house
- House frontage, or water connection to access
- Additional charges
- For more information, review page 79 of the manual.
My water was shut off but I’m still receiving a bill?
- A representative can view shut-offs in Banner. An explanation about how to search for this is on page 167 of the handbook.
- If you require a refund, the below documentation helps the department review your account and initiate the refund process:
- Vacant Building Registration
- Vacancy Insurance Documents
- Demolition Court Documents
- Building Violation Inspection Reports
- Real Estate property tax vacant status
- Real Estate listing indicating vacant property
- Chicago Fire Department report
- Board up documents/receipts
- Gas letter
- Permits for rehab, plumbing, or demolition
- 311 Service Reports for water shut-offs
- Banner service orders for shuts offs
- A full list of documents can be found on page 30 of the manual.
I have unusually high water usage?
- The representative should check your usage history to see if there has been high usage at the same time for previous years. The “Consumption Data Profile” allows representatives to view water usage data for each day. Sometimes, if your meter has an inaccurate reading, a “trouble code” will appear in the system (see below).
- If you believe there’s an issue with your meter, you should request a MeterShop appointment, which is further explained on page 256 of the manual.
Can I view my documents online?
- Yes, “Docugateway,” (https://chicago.docugateway.com) is a city website for viewing account information. You can view:
- Billing statements
- Collection Notifications
- Payment Arrangement Letters
- Meter Running Continuous Notification Letters
- Receipts for Payments
Why am I receiving a water-sewer tax?
- Chicago’s City Council approved the tax to cover the city’s largest pension fund – the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund.
Will a customer service representative call you back about an existing problem?
- No, in order to receive an update about your account, it is your responsibility to follow-up.
- Page 259 of the manual says, “The customer may only receive follow-up information by calling Utility Billing.”
Do I have to pay my bill while my account is under review?
- Yes, the city requires customers to pay their bills while their account is under review.
If I’m a senior citizen, what discounts do I qualify for?
- Seniors are eligible for a 50 percent garbage fee discount called the “Cook County Senior Freeze” exemption. This will reduce the garbage fee to $4.75 per month. To qualify for this, you must have a gross household income of $65,000 or less. If you are eligible, you can register with the Cook County Assessor’s Office: 312-443-7550.
- The Senior Citizen Sewer Exemption allows people over the age of 65 to have their sewer charges waived. For more information, please see page 88 of the manual.
- Page 47 of the manual also says, “The late payment penalty shall not be imposed upon persons who are 65 years of age or older, who own and reside in their own residence and who have a separate water meter or water assessment.”