Auto-Enrollment is Wrong / by kevin murray

I receive monthly utility bills in which typically I don't even look at the bill, but just simply pay it automatically through my checking account.  To me, there aren't a lot of reasons to read your utility bill because it's a regulated utility company and what they charge is what you are going to have to pay.  However, I recently noticed that my bill was $58.00, a very round number, which raised suspicions within me, as the previous couple months were also round numbers, something that seemed highly unlikely when historically bills were for odd amounts that included pennies such as $56.31, $68.27 and so forth.  So I took a look at my bill and I discovered a new charge on my bill entitled "roundup", which "round-ups" your bill in which that extra small amount is apparently used with other customer's contributions to provide funds to community non-profit organizations.  On the surface, maybe that's a good idea, even a brilliant idea, because small numbers if they are multiplied by a large customer base can come up with a meaningful amount of dollars, in which the hit to the consumer pocketbook is marginal.  But there are a couple of issues that aren't clear to me,  such as: how efficient is the utility company with the donations; that is to say are they taking some sort of administration fee, where are the monies being allocated, and ultimately do I want any utility company to decide where I should donate my money.


Another thing that I found very annoying, even disturbing, was that I didn't opt-in to the enrollment with my utility company for round-up, as I certainly wasn't a new customer, so it was puzzling to me how this even occurred.  What they told me is that they sent out a notice in which I could have opted-out, but since I didn't respond, the default was for me to opt-in.   This is poor policy as it is wrong to change the terms and conditions of your relationship in which you as a consumer are being opted-in and consequently being billed more money, or losing your privacy, or the like.  The default for decisions in which you give up privacy or money should be for you, the consumer to consciously opt-in and never to be auto-enrolled.


When you purchase items over the web, the more responsible websites, allow you as a customer to determine whether you want your personal information distributed to other interested companies, such as advertisers, drug companies, or the like.  The more devious companies are ones that don't make it clear that they are allowing other companies to receive/buy personal information about you and/or to build a profile on you.   These said companies are further able to protect themselves from consumer lawsuits by then pointing out that it is part of their terms and conditions in which you by using their website,  or by not un-checking some particular box, have failed to recognize this fact.  Consequently, these companies have put the onus on you, that is your fault for not having done your diligence, and that they are merely asserting their rights per those conditions.


Auto-enrollment into areas that are of little benefit to the consumer but will definitely benefit the company that has established and/or changed this policy should not be permitted.  You as a consumer should have sovereignty over you, anything less, diminish us, and will increase the overreach of companies and websites that we interface with.