Does your city allow customers to receive their utility bill online?
March 13, 2019 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Does your city allow customers to receive their utility bill online?

This is the only bill I can't receive online and it's been the only once since about 2002. It can be paid automatically, but the actual bill must be mailed.

Is there a valid reason for this?

I live in a college town of about 80k and the bill is for water, sewer, trash, and recycling.
posted by aerotive to Law & Government (32 answers total)
Seattle allows for electronic delivery of electric and water/sewage bills, and I have mine delivered as such.
posted by saeculorum at 8:17 AM on March 13, 2019

Yes. Durham, NC for the record. I have autopay set up now and once a month I see my utility bill slide into my inbox, note that last month's was paid as planned, and archive it.
posted by jzb at 8:17 AM on March 13, 2019

I receive electricity bills in three separate places.

Rural Vermont - online
Suburban MA - online
Rural/Suburban MA - online and literally just started being online in the last 3-4 months via some service provider who is ridiculous

Often municipal utilities (i.e. ones that are owned by the town/city) are slower about these things than others. In Vermont where I live the water bill (owned by the town) comes in the mail.
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on March 13, 2019

ConEd (NYC) does online billing.
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2019

ConEd in NYC does allow online billing and payments.
posted by holborne at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2019

NYC--online, but they continue to send the paper copies anyway.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2019

My town of Longmont, CO (population ~100k) has municipal electric, gigabit fiber internet, trash, water, and sewer. All can be billed/paid online. I think we’re pretty lucky.
posted by zsazsa at 8:23 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there a valid reason for this?

Could be any of a number of reasons. They're most likely using an external vendor for handling payment and perhaps that vendor gets a list of who owes what, but perhaps doesn't receive all the usage details and formatting to prepare online PDFs for transmission and invoicing.

In my city we have online and automatic EFT payment for city utilities, but paper invoices are still mailed USPS like your situation. We had to personally contact the finance department to ask them to stop paper billing and email us the PDF, and they went through some laborious manual process to make it happen. It wasn't anything accessible on the website.

I'd call your town's finance department and ask if it's possible.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:26 AM on March 13, 2019

I've never lived in a place where I couldn't receive an online electric bill.
posted by Automocar at 8:28 AM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I live in a Midwestern town of about 80k people and I can receive my water/sewer bill from the city online automatically. However, I can't set up any kind of legit auto-pay on their website (they only allow for you to make a payment scheduled for the current date). So it's kind of halfway to what I want, I get around it by sending checks on schedule from my bank.

I'm pretty sure the email bills are recently implemented -- in the last 1-2 years iirc.
posted by possibilityleft at 8:37 AM on March 13, 2019

DC - yes, I get paperless delivery from Pepco.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:49 AM on March 13, 2019

City of 35k in Wisconsin with municipal electric, sewer, and water. We got online billing about 5 years ago.
posted by notjustthefish at 8:54 AM on March 13, 2019

My only utility bill from the city is for water, and we can get it via email and pay it automatically (the interface is clunky compared to most bill payment systems, though).
posted by mskyle at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2019

Toronto: water/waste, property tax and electricity can all be paid online. I only ever use Canada Post's semi-execrable ePost service to receive these bills, but for $reasons I can't pay through ePost but have to use my credit union's website instead.

I think the city might be the last of my bills to come through ePost (now the snappily titled, and the rest have to be found through a monthly online chase through 5-6 different websites. This kind of defeats the whole purpose of ePost, which was supposed to be your mailbox, except online. ISTR something like Canada Post pitching ePost as slightly cheaper than paper mail when in was launched 19 years ago, but they haven't reduced that cost in any way over time and so the service is now comparatively hideously expensive.
posted by scruss at 9:30 AM on March 13, 2019

A small town in Vermont with a small village-owned electric utility. They recently (last year or two) started offering the option of receiving bills electronically.
posted by Redstart at 9:36 AM on March 13, 2019

Pacific Gas & Electric allows it (prefers it) across their service territory, which is basically all of California north of Santa Barbara, minus a few specific municipalities.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:48 AM on March 13, 2019

NYC--online, but they continue to send the paper copies anyway.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:19 AM on March 13 [+] [!]

In NYC - I receive all my utility bills online (Obscure Reference - you can opt out of paper billing)
posted by Julnyes at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

My suburb of >30K doesn't email you a bill exactly, but they do send you an email that your bill is ready and you can log in to your account on their website to see it and make a one-time payment. It's my only bill that doesn't interface directly with my online banking, so I do have to go and hunt down the exact dollar amount every month.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2019

I have worked at multiple utilities. To my knowledge, there is no real reason why a utility cannot do online billing. I'm sure it all comes down to $. Most utilities budgets are tied to the local government or they get $ directly from the paying customers. Unfortunately, there are many, many other costs that take priority over updating the billing systems.
posted by jraz at 10:01 AM on March 13, 2019

Midwestern college town. I can pay it online, but I can't set up auto-pay.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2019

midwest town, population of 48,000. yes. receive online, pay online, auto pay available. they tell you they prefer the online over paper. the only thing i can't pay online anymore is my rent.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:30 AM on March 13, 2019

In New Orleans:
Entergy bills me for gas and electricity. I receive email alerts / statement when a bill is due.
Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) bills me for water and waste pickup. I receive email alerts / statement when a bill is due.

Fun fact: anyone who has a SWBNO account and has their wits about them avoids autopay like the plague. SWBNO is notorious for bad billing. In 2013 I received a bill for $20,011.23 for my residential water service. If I'd had autopay on I'd have been messed up for the weeks it took them to correct the error.
posted by komara at 11:42 AM on March 13, 2019

In Chicago, everything is billed and payable online via autopay, even the water and trash bill we get from the city.
posted by goatdog at 11:56 AM on March 13, 2019

My city of about 60k offers e-billing for trash/sanitation/sewer and you get a $10 credit the first month.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:23 PM on March 13, 2019

Yes. Southern California Edison. We haven't gotten a paper bill in years.
posted by Linnee at 2:35 PM on March 13, 2019

My little town/village area does everything electronically (although they send duplicate paper water bills, for some reason).
posted by thomas j wise at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2019

I live in a city of 200K and pay them for water, power, and trash; we can't get our bills online or do autopay, but can manually pay with a credit card online. Very annoying!
posted by karbonokapi at 4:02 PM on March 13, 2019

Heck, my power company gives me a discount for paying online; I receive the bill by email and it's auto-paid.
posted by inexorably_forward at 6:40 PM on March 13, 2019

DC - yes, I get paperless delivery from Pepco.

Pepco isn't a municipal utility, though. It's part of Exelon, one of the biggest electric power companies nationwide (as in, Exelon owns a lot of local and regional utilities, and also owns a number of power generation facilities). And while you can do paperless billing you can't set up an e-bill that's paid automatically by your bank. You can do auto-pay through Pepco but I've had problems with it in the past so every month I dig out the email telling me my statement is available with a balance of $X.YY and then put that number into my bank's bill pay interface.

Washington Gas (also not a municipal utility) does paperless statements and even full-on e-bills. WGL [the L stands for Light, because WGL was founded in 1848, in the days of gas lamps] notably screwed a bunch of people over a few years ago when something broke in their payment processing and they didn't notice for a few months. They just stopped processing payments for people who had auto-pay set up through them. Eventually they fixed whatever the problem was with their payment processing, and I had a few friends who got dinged for several months of bills (and multiple hundreds of dollars) all at once. For some strange reason, though, the e-bills going to the bank kept working even though WGL itself stopped taking money, so when my friends complained about their surprise bills I went back and looked at my statements and said, "huh. Bank of America paid it every month."

The closest thing DC has to a municipal utility is DC Water, but since 1996 it has been an authority independent of the DC government, so ensured by a further act of Congress in 2008 (because that is how the sausage gets made here, for real). DC Water can do paperless billing and auto-pay, but not e-bills. I have my auto-pay going through a credit card and not an ACH draft for reasons I no longer remember. I think maybe I just figured I'd get a few more Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

DC property taxes get paid from our mortgage escrow account. There's definitely some electronic thing happening there to make that work, but every six months we get a paper tax bill we don't pay, because of the escrow account thing. Our trash and recycling are picked up by the Department of Public Works, but that's where the property taxes that we don't pay directly go, and DPW doesn't bill us separately.
posted by fedward at 7:38 PM on March 13, 2019

City of Austin Utilities (electric, water, sewage, trash/recycling) has e-bills available. I can't remember if there was autopay and I didn't use it or there was no autopay.

ConEd is a private company.
posted by hoyland at 8:39 PM on March 13, 2019

Denver here, we can receive and pay electronically
posted by LKWorking at 10:45 AM on March 14, 2019

Thanks everyone, interesting that other cities have similar setups. Though it seems this is pretty rate.
posted by aerotive at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2019

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