A new law spearheaded by State Representative Joe Sosnowski will protect consumers from being back-billed for years of local utility charges caused by the utility’s own error. House Bill 3400, recently signed into law as PA 100-0178, ensures that families and businesses served by local, municipal utilities will now enjoy the same back-billing protections as customers served by larger utility companies in Illinois.
“Before the signing of this bill, municipal utility billing companies could back-bill a customer for 10 years or more when the municipality itself erred on billing,” Rep. Sosnowski said. “The new law prevents residents from being gouged with years and years of bills when the utility was the one at fault.”
Unaccounted for water or sewage service can happen because of a lack of meters or the utilities own billing mistake. But once the error is discovered, Rep. Sosnowski stressed, there was previously very little in the way of limitation on how far back a local public utility could go to seek compensation for the unbilled service. In the Village of Greenfield, the local sanitary district mistakenly stopped billing residents in 2009 as the City of Joliet had assumed providing that service. The city of Joliet back-billed residents in Greenfield for $197,000 in unpaid sewage service in 2015. Bills for $2,000 went out to about 100 Greenfield residents.
Under Rep. Sosnowski’s new law, municipal utilities will only be allowed to back-bill residential customers for up to 12 months of unbilled charges and non-residential customers for up to 24 months.
“Other public utility providers are regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission and already had regulations in place limiting back-billing for usage discovered at a later date. Families and businesses served by utilities run by their municipalities now have equal protection,” Rep. Sosnowski said.