by: Jim Strickland Updated:
Consumer investigator Jim Strickland is getting answers for local utility customers who've discovered a new charge on their electric bills.
"They didn't give me any choice in the matter. They just did it and said I can opt out if I want to," said Pat Hill of Acworth.
Hill emailed Strickland about his new Cobb EMC electric bill. It had been rounded up to an even dollar amount.
He complains that the notice he got about the utility's "Operation Round Up" charity program was buried in the billing inserts.
"We have six pages of junk information, ads and surveys, and when you get back to the seventh page they do have a notice of it. I never go back to the seventh page. I don't think many other people do," he said in looking at his December billing material.
The EMC's chief executive says they did their best to get the word out, with billing notices beginning last August.
"We have told the story over, and over, and over again to our members that Operation Round Up was going to start in February," said CEO Chip Nelson.
Extra money collected by rounding up the bills goes to charities like Must Ministries.
“Cobb EMC is not increasing people's rates. What they're doing is helping people like us make a difference in the lives of people in poverty," said charity President Dr. Ike Reighard.
Nelson says if customers don't want to round up they can opt out of the program; 16,000 of the EMC's 177,000 members have done so.
Nelson says members had already been opted in to the EMC's charity work, and this new program gives them a choice.
"Through corporate revenues, we were giving to local charities. So the members were already giving. They just didn't know they were giving," he said.
Each member is expected to give an average $6 per year, making the total program worth more than $1 million.