JASPER, Tenn. — One of the main reasons city leaders began offering online bill pay on Jasper's official website last June was a situation in which at least one resident tried to pay a water bill through a third-party service based in Seattle.
Now that problem has cropped up again, and city officials are warning residents not to use any third-party services to pay city bills.
Mayor Paul Evans said some residents' water was turned off recently for nonpayment, even though they had paid their bill through the third-party service called doxo.com.
A Google search for "jasper tn water bill pay" or "town of jasper water" shows the doxo.com site before the town's actual webpage.
Residents pay doxo.com the money for their bill plus a service fee, and in turn that company is supposed to pay off the bill to the city for their clients.
"We still haven't received payment through them [for the most recent situation]," Evans said. "It's a third party — nothing to do with us."
He said doxo.com does pay the bills eventually, but those payments are always late and "it's just extremely slow."
Police Lt. Scott Evans said there had been two similar issues over the last year.
"On their page, [doxo.com] put a disclaimer that they are not affiliated [with the town], but yet they've got our webpage attached to it, Sequachee Valley Electric, and four or five others."
City Attorney Mark Raines has tried to call the company, but could never get an actual person on the line.
Attempts to contact doxo.com for this story were unsuccessful, as well.
"I don't really know how to address that," Raines said. "I don't think it's unlawful. It's kind of like a buyer beware, caveat emptor thing. I feel bad for these folks that use that service, but they do that at their own risk."
He said the city should put a warning about avoiding any third-party services on its official website, too.
Raines said he examined the issue when the problem first arose last year to see if there might be some fraud involved, but "there's not."
"They just take advantage of people," he said.
Mayor Evans stressed that doxo.com is not affiliated with the town and shouldn't be used to pay city bills online.
Those bills can be paid through the town's official website.
"I hate it for our customers, and we make it right with them," he said. "It [payment from the third party service] just doesn't get there in time. When it gets there, we make it right with them, or try to."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.