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Check your utility bill for city charge you might not owe

(Photo: SBG San Antonio)

The News 4 Trouble Shooters have uncovered the City of San Antonio has been charging many customers for trash service they weren't getting. It's been going on for years and now the city is making changes.

Hundreds of homeowners and renters who've been paying for a private garbage company to haul off their trash have also been getting charged for city trash service. Because of a billing mix-up the city's known about for years.

Leon Portillo has been paying for a private garbage hauler to pick up his trash ever since he moved into a far Northwest side neighborhood just outside city limits.

One day in 2015 he noticed a vague looking charge on his CPS Energy bill for "city services". Turns out the City of San Antonio was also charging Leon for trash removal, even though they don't provide the service in his neighborhood.

“I was pretty irate, I already had an argument that I was going to give them if they didn't cooperate. I was going to call the trouble shooters, I was going to make a stink," Leon said.

After Leon called both CPS Energy and the city's Solid Waste Management Department the charge was removed from his bill and the city credited his account for more than $300 in past charges.

Leon told his neighbors to check their energy bills.

“I got a lot of responses, everybody had gotten billed by the city for nonexistent services," Leon said.

Saul Lopez checked his CPS Energy statements going back years. He had overlooked the charge too, even though on his bill it was labeled "solid waste fee".

“It's a big problem. It's a big growth area around here. Imagine my $20 and everybody else’s $20 around here," Saul said.

Records requested by the News 4 Trouble Shooters show more than 1,500 customers, from all over Bexar County, have been incorrectly charged in the past three years, and have been issued refunds of almost $200,000.

Those are just the cases the city knows about so far.

Earlier this year people living along I-10 in the Dominion found out they'd been overcharged for 7-years. They are now getting credits of up to $1,500 each.

Reporter Jaie Avila asked the city why those customers were charged for a service they didn't receive.

“We've been working in conjunction with CPS Energy to actually look and see what really causes that," said David McCary, Director of Solid Waste Management.

McCary says for years the charge for trash service has been placed on CPS Energy's bills because it's more efficient than sending out a separate trash bill. The problem is, when a new customer moves in, CPS Energy assumes they will need garbage service, and no one with Solid Waste has been verifying that.

McCary says that recently changed.

“It's better for us to tell them who our customers are and that's what hasn't happened in the past. So we have a new protocol a new process," McCary said.

As of this past April his department has been verifying whether new customers are receiving trash service.

CPS Energy will not begin charging someone unless they receive a new authorization form.

McCary also says they've been slowly auditing all 350,000 garbage accounts to see who else may have been incorrectly charged.

“Even though it may be less than one percent half of one percent, one customer is too many that's being billed incorrectly so we want to correct that," he said.

Leon Portillo agrees with that. “'m glad we caught it when we did."

If you pay for private trash service, check your CPS Energy bill for that charge between $17 and $23 listed as “city services” or “solid waste services”.

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