EPCOR Water Co. customers’ frustrations were growing since August when it became difficult to contact the company, but the situation is improving.
Customers accustomed to doing business with the water company over the telephone or through email experienced difficulty throughout EPCOR districts in the U.S. getting through, which kept some from paying bills or transferred accounts when a home sold.
Problems started Aug. 18 when EPCOR’s third party telephone vendor’s system was attacked by ransomware, according to Rebecca Stenholm, EPCOR community relations director. To avoid having customers’ information compromised, company officials immediately disconnected from that vendor and went to a secondary system.
“Our first priority was to protect our customers’ data,” Stenholm explained. “There is no indication any of our customers’ data was compromised.”
EPCOR officials did not get reconnected to their third party vendor’s system for three weeks, and the secondary system handled calls and emails more slowly, which created long wait times and backlogged calls.
“Our standard is to answer calls within 30 seconds,” Stenholm said. “As of Sept. 24 wait times on calls were at about 20 minutes — shorter than they had been but still not at what we expect.”
The phone system was reconnected to the normal vendor Sept. 8 and the system has been working since then, Stenholm said.
“We are just asking people to be patient when they call and email,” she added. “We are also now caught up on emails received and customers can expect responses within 2-3 days.”
Some customers went to the EPCOR office in Sun City, but it was closed. Stenholm said that is because of the COVID-19 protocols.
During this period of system difficulties, EPCOR officials are not charging late fees or disconnecting service due to non-payment, Stenholm said.
There has been no delay for customers on the auto-pay system as that option was not affected by the disconnection of the phone system due to the ransomware, except for one or two billing days, Stenholm explained. Customers can also pay bills and more with an online account.
“We highly recommend customers set up an online account because they can do a lot more than way, like makes changes to their information, pay bills and check on usage,” Stenholm said.
There is also a mobile app available that allows customers to access their online account.
To set up an online account, visit epcor.com, set location as Arizona, click on “My Account,” click “sign Up” and follow the instructions.