Friday, March 7, 2008

Smart Pay & Net Pay Expanded

From today's Commercial Appeal.

More eligible for billing options
MLGW is expanding Net Pay, Smart Pay for those who need a break

By Michael Erskine

Friday, March 7, 2008

Starting today, more Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division customers are eligible for Net Pay and Smart Pay, two programs that provide alternative billing arrangements.

In expanding the programs to include residential customers who have outstanding balances of up to $600, MLGW officials said Thursday they hope to reduce late fees for customers who can't afford them. Late fees tack on 5 percent to bills.

Under Net Pay, customers on fixed incomes who receive just one income check, typically at the beginning of the month, can request the net due date of their bill be delayed until after they get their money. Most Net Pay customers have a due date on the 12th of the month.

Previously, customers had to have a zero balance in order to qualify for Net Pay, but MLGW's board of commissioners approved a policy change Thursday that allows customers with a balance as high as $600 to enroll. That balance would be paid off incrementally over 12 months.

Net Pay is open to customers age 60 and over who receive only Social Security or a pension, or customers of any age who receive only disability checks. To qualify, they can't supplement their income with other earnings, and the program participant must be the customer of record for the MLGW account.

About 2,600 customers are enrolled in Net Pay. Their rate of late fees and disconnections is far less when compared to the overall customer base, said Chris Bieber, MLGW vice president of customer care.

In addition, customers with a $600 balance may also now enroll in Smart Pay, but they must be enrolled in Net Pay, too.

Under Smart Pay, customers pay the same amount every month on their utility bill. Bills are calculated by averaging utility bills over two six-month periods from the prior year.

-- Michael Erskine: 529-5857

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