District council text message error riles ratepayers
An automated text message blunder has left thousands of Waikato ratepayers incorrectly told their bill was overdue and council staff scrambling to sort out the mess.
Last week Tuesday, Waikato District Council sent a text message to 3663 Waikato District ratepayers saying’’ ’’Overdue: Forgotten to pay Waikato District Council rates due 25 September? If you need help call us at 0800 492 452.’’
A database error meant the message was sent to a mix of those who had paid and those who hadn’t with council unsure exactly how many of each.
But what is certain is the swift reaction from angry residents, with the council inundated with hundreds of confused and often irate responses by phone, text messages and social media.
Council acting chief executive Tony Whittaker said it was meant to be a proactive approach.
‘‘The spirit in which it was sent out was to be proactive. It’s a shame, the first time we’ve done it we’ve had this admin mix-up.’’
Some people took to the council Facebook page to complain.
One woman said it wasn’t fair to receive the text and started panicking, going through records to make sure she had paid.
‘‘[We] don’t need the extra stress as we pay lots of money, so can’t understand why your systems are wrong.’’
Others said mistakes happen, and it was no big deal. Council sent out a second text message an hour later and a post on their Facebook page to explain the error.
Whittaker said council was reminding ratepayers just incase they overlooked their rates and got a penalty letter further down the track.
He said a few people responded to the texts saying, ‘‘thank you for the reminder’’.
But he didn’t know out of the 3663 ratepayers, the number of people who had and hadn’t paid their rates.
An administration error by the council saw a text message about overdue rates sent to those who had paid them.