|(a) Authorized rates. Bills must be calculated according
to the rates approved by the regulatory authority and listed on the
utility's approved tariff. Unless specifically authorized by the commission,
a utility may not apply a metered rate to customers in a subdivision
or geographically defined area unless all customers in the subdivision
or geographically defined area are metered.
(b) Due date.
(1) The due date of the bill for utility service may
not be less than 16 days after issuance unless the customer is a state
agency. If the customer is a state agency, the due date for the bill
may not be less than 30 days after issuance unless otherwise agreed
to by the state agency. The postmark on the bill or the recorded date
of mailing by the utility if there is no postmark on the bill, constitutes
proof of the date of issuance. Payment for utility service is delinquent
if the full payment, including late fees and regulatory assessments,
is not received at the utility or at the utility's authorized payment
agency by 5:00 p.m. on the due date. If the due date falls on a holiday
or weekend, the due date for payment purposes is the next work day
after the due date.
(2) If a utility has been granted an exception to the
requirements for a local office in accordance with §24.153(d)(3)
of this title (relating to Customer Relations), the due date of the
bill for utility service may not be less than 30 days after issuance.
(c) Penalty on delinquent bills for retail service.
Unless otherwise provided, a one-time penalty of either $5.00 or 10%
for all customers may be charged for delinquent bills. If, after receiving
a bill including a late fee, a customer pays the bill in full except
for the late fee, the bill may be considered delinquent and subject
to termination after proper notice under §24.167 of this title
(relating to Discontinuance of Service). An additional late fee may
not be applied to a subsequent bill for failure to pay the prior late
fee. The penalty on delinquent bills may not be applied to any balance
to which the penalty was applied in a previous billing. No such penalty
may be charged unless a record of the date the utility mails the bills
is made at the time of the mailing and maintained at the principal
office of the utility. Late fees may not be charged on any payment
received by 5:00 p.m. on the due date at the utility's office or authorized
payment agency. The commission may prohibit a utility from collecting
late fees for a specified period if it determines that the utility
has charged late fees on payments that were not delinquent.
(d) Deferred payment plan. A deferred payment plan
is any arrangement or agreement between the utility and a customer
in which an outstanding bill will be paid in installments. The utility
shall offer a deferred payment plan to any residential customer if
the customer's bill is more than three times the average monthly bill
for that customer for the previous 12 months and if that customer
has not been issued more than two disconnection notices at any time
during the preceding 12 months. In all other cases, the utility is
encouraged to offer a deferred payment plan to residential customers
who cannot pay an outstanding bill in full but are willing to pay
the balance in reasonable installments. A deferred payment plan may
include a finance charge that may not exceed an annual rate of 10%
simple interest. Any finance charges must be clearly stated on the
deferred payment agreement.
(e) Rendering and form of bills.
(1) Bills for water and sewer service shall be rendered
monthly unless otherwise authorized by the commission, or unless service
is terminated before the end of a billing cycle. Service initiated
less than one week before the next billing cycle begins may be billed
with the following month's bill. Bills shall be rendered as promptly
as possible following the reading of meters. One bill shall be rendered
for each meter.
(2) The customer's bill must include the following
information, if applicable, and must be arranged so as to allow the
customer to readily compute the bill with a copy of the applicable
(A) if the meter is read by the utility, the date and
reading of the meter at the beginning and at the end of the period
for which the bill is rendered;
(B) the number and kind of units metered;
(C) the applicable rate class or code;
(D) the total amount due for water service;
(E) the amount deducted as a credit required by a commission
(F) the amount due as a surcharge;
(G) the total amount due on or before the due date
of the bill;
(H) the due date of the bill;
(I) the date by which customers must pay the bill in
order to avoid addition of a penalty;
(J) the total amount due as penalty for nonpayment
within a designated period;
(K) a distinct marking to identify an estimated bill;
(L) any conversions from meter reading units to billing
units, or any other calculations to determine billing units from recording
or other devices, or any other factors used in determining the bill;
(M) the total amount due for sewer service;
(N) the gallonage used in determining sewer usage;
(O) the local telephone number or toll free number
where the utility can be reached.
(3) Except for an affected county or for solid waste
disposal fees collected under a contract with a county or other public
agency, charges for nonutility services or any other fee or charge
not specifically authorized by the Texas Water Code or these rules
or specifically listed on the utility's approved tariff may not be
included on the bill.
(f) Charges for sewer service. Utilities are not required
to use meters to measure the quantity of sewage disposed of by individual
customers. When a sewer utility is operated in conjunction with a
water utility that serves the same customer, the charge for sewage
disposal service may be based on the consumption of water as registered
on the customer's water meter. Where measurement of water consumption
is not available, the utility shall use the best means available for
determining the quantity of sewage disposal service used. A method
of separating customers by class shall be adopted so as to apply rates
that will accurately reflect the cost of service to each class of
(g) Consolidated billing and collection contracts.
(1) This subsection applies to all retail public utilities.
(2) A retail public utility providing water service
may contract with a retail public utility providing sewer service
to bill and collect the sewer service provider's fees and payments
as part of a consolidated process with the billing and collection
of the water service provider's fees and payments. The water service
provider may provide that service only for customers who are served
by both providers in an area covered by both providers' certificates
of public convenience and necessity. If the water service provider
refuses to enter into a contract under this section or if the water
service provider and sewer service provider cannot agree on the terms
of a contract, the sewer service provider may petition the commission
to issue an order requiring the water service provider to provide
(3) A contract or order under this subsection must
provide procedures and deadlines for submitting filing and customer
information to the water service provider and for the delivery of
collected fees and payments to the sewer service provider.
(4) A contract or order under this subsection may require
or permit a water service provider that provides consolidated billing
and collection of fees and payments to:
(A) terminate the water services of a person whose
sewage services account is in arrears for nonpayment; and
(B) charge a customer a reconnection fee if the customer's
water service is terminated for nonpayment of the customer's sewage
(5) A water service provider that provides consolidated
billing and collection of fees and payments may impose on each sewer
service provider customer a reasonable fee to recover costs associated
with providing consolidated billing and collection of fees and payments
for sewage services.
(h) Overbilling and underbilling. If billings for utility
service are found to differ from the utility's lawful rates for the
services being provided to the customer, or if the utility fails to
bill the customer for such services, a billing adjustment shall be
calculated by the utility. If the customer is due a refund, an adjustment
must be made for the entire period of the overcharges. If the customer
was undercharged, the utility may backbill the customer for the amount
that was underbilled. The backbilling may not exceed 12 months unless
such undercharge is a result of meter tampering, bypass, or diversion
by the customer as defined in §24.169 of this title (relating
to Meters). If the underbilling is $25 or more, the utility shall
offer to such customer a deferred payment plan option for the same
length of time as that of the underbilling. In cases of meter tampering,
bypass, or diversion, a utility may, but is not required to, offer
a customer a deferred payment plan.
(i) Estimated bills. When there is good reason for
doing so, a water or sewer utility may issue estimated bills, provided
that an actual meter reading is taken every two months and appropriate
adjustments made to the bills.
(j) Prorated charges for partial-month bills. When
a bill is issued for a period of less than one month, charges should
be computed as follows.
(1) Metered service. Service shall be billed for the
base rate, as shown in the utility's tariff, prorated for the number
of days service was provided; plus the volume metered in excess of
the prorated volume allowed in the base rate.
(2) Flat-rate service. The charge shall be prorated
on the basis of the proportionate part of the period during which
service was rendered.
(3) Surcharges. Surcharges approved by the commission
do not have to be prorated on the basis of the number of days service
(k) Prorated charges due to utility service outages.
In the event that utility service is interrupted for more than 24
consecutive hours, the utility shall prorate the base charge to the
customer to reflect this loss of service. The base charge to the customer
shall be prorated on the basis of the proportionate part of the period
during which service was interrupted.
(l) Disputed bills.
(1) A customer may advise a utility that a bill is
in dispute by written notice or in person during normal business hours.
A dispute must be registered with the utility and a payment equal
to the customer's average monthly usage at current rates must be received
by the utility prior to the date of proposed discontinuance for a
customer to avoid discontinuance of service as provided by §24.167
of this title.
(2) Notwithstanding any other section of this chapter,
the customer may not be required to pay the disputed portion of a
bill that exceeds the amount of that customer's average monthly usage
at current rates pending the completion of the determination of the
dispute. For purposes of this section only, the customer's average
monthly usage will be the average of the customer's usage for the
preceding 12-month period. Where no previous usage history exists,
consumption for calculating the average monthly usage will be estimated
on the basis of usage levels of similar customers under similar conditions.
(3) Notwithstanding any other section of this chapter,
a utility customer's service may not be subject to discontinuance
for nonpayment of that portion of a bill under dispute pending the
completion of the determination of the dispute. The customer is obligated
to pay any billings not disputed as established in §24.167 of
(m) Notification of alternative payment programs or
payment assistance. Any time customers contact a utility to discuss
their inability to pay a bill or indicate that they are in need of
assistance with their bill payment, the utility or utility representative
shall provide information to the customers in English and in Spanish,
if requested, of available alternative payment and payment assistance
programs available from the utility and of the eligibility requirements
and procedure for applying for each.
(n) Adjusted bills. There is a presumption of reasonableness
of billing methodology by a sewer utility for winter average billing
or by a water utility with regard to a case of meter tampering, bypassing,
or other service diversion if any one of the following methods of
calculating an adjusted bill is used:
(1) estimated bills based upon service consumed by
that customer at that location under similar conditions during periods
preceding the initiation of meter tampering or service diversion.
Such estimated bills must be based on at least 12 consecutive months
of comparable usage history of that customer, when available, or lesser
history if the customer has not been served at that site for 12 months.
This subsection, however, does not prohibit utilities from using other
methods of calculating bills for unmetered water when the usage of
other methods can be shown to be more appropriate in the case in question;
(2) estimated bills based upon that customer's usage
at that location after the service diversion has been corrected;