Nevada City, CA — The 2020-2021 Nevada County Grand Jury (Jury) today released its report of an investigation into surcharges levied on credit card and other consumer payments to the Nevada Irrigation District (NID), as well as the allocation of other taxes collected by NID. The Jury finds NID’s $3.75 charge per payment out of step with the billing practices of many other utilities and retailers and recommends that the NID Board of Directors publicly review its third-party contract with vendor Paymentus; expand the use of ‘free’ paperless billing by customers; and initiate a thorough consumer complaint system.
Prompted by a citizen complaint, the Jury investigated consumer fees associated with paying NID treated-water bills. The investigation focused on the payment of bills via electronic methods, and included research on California Consumer Protection laws, academic opinions and industry billing practices. The Jury also reviewed the practices of other California water districts as well as surcharges (if any) related to credit card payments for other consumer bills.
The Jury concludes that NID’s $3.75 surcharge for the use of credit and debit cards is unusual for a water district. By comparison, none of the irrigation districts for Modesto, Napa, Placer, or Turlock charges such a fee. Yuba City charges $1.60 per transaction, and Sutter offers a sliding scale that begins at $1. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Waste Management do not charge a fee for credit card use. PG&E charges $1.
In addition, the Jury examined NID’s monthly collection of $1.90 per customer to offset State/County fees for mandatory reporting compliance to the State of California. The Jury calculates that in 2019 NID may have collected over $450,000 in additional fees to cover approximately $399,000 in out-of-pocket costs.
The full report is available as a pdf file here.