Higher fuel costs raises July rates

Higher rainfall and cheaper natural gas will keep the fuel cost portion of TVA's July electricity bills at their lowest price since the utility added the monthly fuel cost adjustment five years ago.

July fuel costs will be up slightly from the June rate, adding 16 cents to the monthly electricity bill for an average Chattanooga household using 1,295 kilowatthours of power. But compared with a year ago, the typical Chattanooga power bill in July for a household using an average amount of power should be $2.41 cheaper, dropping from $142.71 in July 2017 to $140.40 next month, assuming the use of 1,295 kilowatthours of electricity.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said the overall system average fuel rate for July is approximately 16 percent lower than the three-year average July fuel cost.

"This is the first time that the fuel cost in July has been below 2 cent per kilowatthour," Brooks said. "This is normally the time of year it spikes because of the hot weather, but we are benefiting by more hydro generation (because of above-average rain) and lower cost natural gas (which fuels many of TVA's newest power generators.)

TVA is planning another 1.5 percent base rate increase in its wholesale rates for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, although there has been some opposition to that proposal from Volunteer Energy Corp., and other TVA distributors. The TVA board will vote on the rate increase as part of its consideration of the fiscal 2019 budget at its August board meeting in Knoxville.

Krystal adds to menu launches "SquareTalk"

The Krystal Company has added Pimento Cheese Bites and Frozen Lemonhead Slushies to its menu as the 360-unit restaurant chain rolls out what it calls its #SquareTalk campaign.

Krystal, one of the nation's oldest fast-food restaurant companies which began in Chattanooga in 1932 , is offering the limited-time menu items this summer as part of an ongoing strategy to celebrate Krystal's heritage and its 11-state Southeastern footprint.

Pimento Cheese Bites are made with sharp cheddar cheese, red bell peppers, milk, cream cheese, cayenne brined pimentos, garlic and onion. The bites are deep fried until golden brown and are available as a side with the new Pimento Cheese Krystal Meal, featuring three Pimento Cheese Krystals, fries and a drink for $3.99.

Krystal is also serving this summer a new Lemonhead Slushie made with real Lemonhead candies. Prices for the new slushie vary by location, the company said.

Krystal recently partnered with The Tombras Group in Knoxvillle to create an unconventional advertising campaign to promote the Krystal Southern brand, which is famous for its small, square hamburgers. The restaurant chain is touting its #SquareTalk campaign with ads that promote consumers to "Live a Little" with Krystal.

"'Live A Little' is a mindset and is at the very core of why people visit Krystal," said Krystal Chief Marketing Officer Dominic Losacco. "#SquareTalk is more than a play on words about our iconic square burgers. It means Krystal gives it to you square and simple in a way that other quick serve restaurants can't."

CKE headquarters expands in Franklin

The restaurant company CKE, the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee' sister chains, will invest $3.6 million and create another 145 jobs in Franklin, Tenn., as it expands its corporate heaquarters.

The move comes two years after the company first announced its decision to locate its heaquarters in the Nashville suburb. The CKE system includes more than 3,300 restaurant locations in 42 states and in 28 countries.

"As we look back on our first year here in the Nashville area, we remain excited for the opportunities we see in both job creation within our surrounding communities, as well as the continued growth of our business," Jim Sullivan, head of development for CKE Restaurants Inc., said. "We are thrilled to be part of the Middle Tennessee community and deeply value our partnership with the State of Tennessee – a partnership that has enabled us to invest heavily in both local talent and technology."

CKE plans to add 47,000 square feet to its current facility in Williamson County. With this expansion, the company will be hiring employees to fill office support, IT, finance, risk management and international operations jobs at its Franklin headquarters.

Comcast service woes caused by fiber cuts

Comcast had to deal Friday with a nationwide outage that affected some of its internet, video and voice customers due to a fiber cut at a backbone network, which is a type of infrastructure that helps connect different computer networks. Comcast said in the statement it believes other providers were also affected.

Comcast's Twitter account replied to some users complaining about a lack of service. It was the second Comcast outage in the past few weeks. Earlier in June, Comcast's phone service for some U.S. businesses went down.

Comcast is one of the nation's largest operators of cable TV and residential internet services.

Home Depot bans paint remover toxics

Home Depot has agreed to pleas of an environmentalist group to stop selling paint removal products containing purportedly toxic substances responsible for consumer deaths.

The Atlanta-based retailer will phase out the use of the chemicals — methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone — in paint removal products by the end of this year.

Banning the two chemicals is a way "to build upon our strategy to maintain continual improvement in health and environmental safety for products," the Home Depot statement said.

The announcement came after aggressive lobbying by a group known as Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which includes more than 450 organizations and businesses. At least 60 deaths are blamed on the chemicals' commercial use, according to the organization.

Home Depot's rival home retailer, Lowe's, was the first U.S. retailer to agree to ban those chemicals, according to Mike Schade, a representative of Safer Chemicals. Sherwin-Williams also recently announced it would stop using the chemicals.

Citigroup refunds to credit card users

Citigroup said Friday it plans to refund $335 million to a group of customers who may have been overpaying interest on their credit cards.

In a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Citi will refund 1.75 million customers in overpaid interest by the end of the year.

Earlier this year, Citi disclosed that it had used a flawed methodology in determining whether credit card customers were eligible for an interest-rate reduction on their cards, as required by the CARD Act, a federal law that governs the credit card industry.

Citi disclosed the flaw to regulators, including the CFPB, in 2017. The CFPB chose not to fine Citi for the flawed practice, citing the bank's decision to self-report the problem to regulators and that it was in the process of refunding customers. Citi had already set aside the funds to cover the refund in a regulatory filing earlier this year.

Friday's settlement with Citigroup is the first time the CFPB has recovered money for consumers under Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's budget director and current acting director of the bureau.