Families in middle Tennessee are frustrated with “Operation Round Up”, the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation's charitable charge that automatically enrolls customers to help out non-profit organizations.
The Phantakou family watches every dime, especially for a family member name Soy, who is deaf, legally blind and can't pay her own bills.
What really upset the Phantakous was the fact that they weren't given the option up front.
“Like my mother in law here, we live paycheck to paycheck; she has no extra income”, said Tiffany Phantakou.
Tiffany was surprised to discover she had been automatically enrolled in a charitable charge on her electric bill.
Customers give to “Operation Round Up” through Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, who raise each customer's bill to the next dollar.
The extra money goes to local non-profit groups.
“Certainly it appears as a line item on your bill, but it's more about a choice to give back to your communities, to give back to your membership, and that's what the co-operative is all about, it's about giving back and helping one another,” said Todd Palmer.
“Operation Round Up” brings in about $50,000 dollars each month. The most any customer will pay is an average of six dollars a year.
They call it a volunteer program, but the customer is responsible to “opt out” of the service, which can be done o the company's Web site or over the phone.
“I spoke with friends, coworkers, family members. They had no idea this was going on,” said Pooh Phantakou.
The Phantakou family is not happy with the electric company's offer to reimburse them for payments made in the last 12 months.
“I feel the way they go about it they are being sneaky about it. It's a shame to me; they put it under the bill under tax section, so when you glance at it, you assume it's a mandatory charge,” said Tiffany.
The family says it's more a matter of principle.