Operation Round Up causing concern for some customers | SteamboatToday.com

Operation Round Up causing concern for some customers

Patrick Kelly

Yampa Valley Electric Association has received criticism from a Craig resident over how it collects funds for Operation Round Up, a program that benefits local nonprofits.

Yampa Valley Electric Association's effort to raise money for local charities has some Craig customers feeling deceived and even threatening legal action.

Operation Round Up is a program where customers can round their monthly bills to the nearest dollar, with the difference benefiting qualifying nonprofits in YVEA's service area.

The program was previously offered to customers on an opt-in basis, but, in November YVEA announced that the round up would be applied automatically to monthly bills unless customers chose to opt-out.

Cindi Crabtree, a Craig resident and local business owner, said she had no idea about being required to opt-out, and she wasn't the only one caught off-guard by the automatic participation in the program.

"I am appalled that they are taking people's money without us paying attention to it," she said.

Crabtree hired Craig attorney Sherman Romney to contact YVEA with a letter spelling out the potential legal concerns.

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The letter states that additional billing without consent is illegal and, even with the provision of opting out, a customers' contractual agreement is violated if a fee is automatically enacted.

"Unless you can show my client that she has agreed in writing to be charged more than the amount of her monthly electric usage, YVEA must return any amounts charged to her account," Romney wrote.

Tammi Strickland, VYEA spokeswoman, said before the implementation of the program YVEA members were notified via radio, newspaper, bill inserts, newsletters, social media and the group's website.

Strickland said Operation Round Up was designed with the help of YVEA's legal counsel and modeled after successful programs implemented by more than 250 cooperatives across the nation.

"In the event that a member feels they are unsure of the program, they have questions, or they wish to have their contribution to the Operation Round Up program refunded, we are happy to credit their account for the amount that has been contributed to the program," she wrote in an email.

Crabtree said she felt a refund for those who were not aware of the need to opt out of the program was the responsible solution, but an apology from YVEA is necessary.

"It just felt sneaky," she said.

According to YVEA, the average yearly donation of participants in the Operation Round Up is $6. The motivation for moving to an opt-out system is to meet the programs needs.

In 2015, Operation Round Up received $46,290 in applications for assistance while taking in $28,00 in donations.

To contact learn more about Operation Round Up or find how to contact YVEA visit http://www.yvea.com/content/operation-roundup.