In what is now being described (obviously) as a billing system snafu, one OWASA customer received a startling notice: he owed the water company more than $100 million.

Kieran Healy, a Duke professor, got a reminder today from OWASA today of his “upcoming AutoPay transaction”—in the amount of $100,000,188.92. That’s one hundred million, one hundred eighty-eight dollars and ninety-two cents.

The bill claimed Healy owed $99,999,999 for a service fee alone and warned that his “current invoice balance exceeds the maximum allowable payment amount per transaction.” Well, yeah.

Healy told the INDY he email OWASA about the bill, and about a half hour later, he got a reply back saying there had been a brief error with the billing notification system.
Stephen Winters, director of Finance and Customer Service for OWASA, explained that the agency contracts out some of its billing functions, including auto-pay notifications. Emails sent this morning from the provider to customers with auto-payments scheduled for certain days received an incorrect billing amount.

“If the customer would click through to the account they’d see the correct number, so we’ve been assured by our service provider that no incorrect amounts will be debited,” Winters said.

Winters said it’s not known yet how many customers received the erroneous emails — “could be a handful but it could be a few thousand.” He ventured to guess the agency had received more than fifty calls about the issue today.

“I see this happen to other utilities around the country and I always say I hope that doesn’t happen to us,” he said.

Once OWASA has more information on what caused the error, Winters said customers will receive an email explaining the glitch. Customers who got an incorrect email don’t need to take any action.