On September 5, 2016, The Seattle Times reported about a glitch in the new billing system used by Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities which allowed customers to see other’s bills. Earlier today, Maura Brueger, the Director of Government & Legislative Affairs at Seattle City Light, sent the following Q&A to Councilmembers explaining the situation. The Q&A is printed in full below.
Q. What happened?
A. Some Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities’ electronic billing customers who were billed on September 4th accidentally received multiple bill notifications through our eBilling website.
Q. What incorrect information was sent?
A. No incorrect information was sent. However, when customers logged in to view their bill they may have been able to view the bills of some other customers.
Q. What other customer impacts were there?
A. Electronic billing customers who also were registered for automatic recurring payments were accidentally received multiple payment notifications through our eBilling website. However, when the customer logs in to view their account they will see that the additional scheduled recurring payments have been canceled. This will not impact future payments from being processed.
Q. How many customers were affected?
A.This potentially affected certain customers who received electronic bills on September 5th dated September 4th. At this time we are working to determine precisely how many customers this affected. We are working as quickly as possible to identify the population of affected customers.
Q. Was my bill seen by any other customers?
A. Only the customers whose accounts were billed on September 4th may be affected.
Q. Was any personal information such as Social Security numbers, or bank account, credit card, or debit card information involved?
A. No. Only information that was included in a customer’s bill, such as name, address, account number, and usage was involved.
Q. Were any other departments affected?
A. No. This technical error only affected Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities.
Q. Was this the result of a hack or other cybercrime?
A. No. This is the result of a technical error.
Q. When did you find out that this had happened?
A. We first learned about it on the morning of September 5th and immediately began to look into the situation. We shut down the eBilling site this same morning and have been working on obtaining accurate information on who may have been affected. We have been able to determine that this did not involve Social Security numbers, or bank account, credit card, or debit card information.
Q. Can I pay my bill using the eBilling website?
A. Yes you can. We disabled the electronic billing website shortly after we learned about the situation until we were confident this was resolved. The electronic billing website was reactivated on the evening of September 5th at 6:40 p.m.
Q. Will utility services be affected?
A. No. Service to customers of Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities will not be affected.
Q. What are you doing to address the situation/make sure that this does not happen again?
A. We are still investigating what happened, and are working on additional measures to keep this from happening again.
Q. Do you know who was responsible for this happening?
A. We’re still investigating how this occurred, but do not currently believe that this was not a situation where hacking or other cyberattack was involved.