Inconvenient truth: MLGW charging fees regardless of utility usage

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Melodie Sulcer is undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments, and medical bills mean a tight budget, so she was surprised to see her most recent MLGW bill.

"I have electric stove, electric water heater, furnace is the only thing that uses gas, zero usage, but they charged me $10," Sulcer said. "And I thought, okay that's odd."

Right on Sulcer's bill, you can see a "zero" in the usage column but $10 under "total."

"I'm on disability so I watch every penny."

So she says she called MLGW and was told this was a "convenience fee."

Needless to say, it's a fee Sulcer considers pretty inconvenient.

"Does that mean if I didn't use any water you are going to charge me a convenience fee? If I didn't use any electric you're going to charge me a convenience fee?"

The answer to Sulcer's question is yes — something many MLGW customers may not be aware of.

But here it is in writing — a service charge MLGW says you have to pay, regardless of usage.

"We've had that for many, many years," said MLGW spokeswoman Gale Jones Carson. "It is now $10 per customer for gas usage."

Carson says the fees increased, most recently in 2008.

The fee is $7.76 for water, $10 for gas and $11.20 for electric.

"All of those fees are just basic. it has nothing to do with consumption but it covers the operational costs for Memphis Light Gas and Water," Carson said.

Which is why Sulcer says she plans to dig deeper into the fee and talk with MLGW about what possibly could be done.

"That's not acceptable to me, it's just not," she said. "That's a lot of money."

"If I pay utilities, I should have access to all of them all the time regardless."

Carson says anyone with concerns about their bill can call or set up an appointment with someone at MLGW.

We are interested in learning more about that service fee, so we put in a request to find out how much money has been collected in fees over the past few years. We'll keep you posted on what we find out.

The number to call for MLGW account issues is (901) 544-6549.