Consumer Groups Call For Legislation To Help Consumers Save Money On Utilities

Bernie Tafoya
April 03, 2018 - 1:43 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Consumer groups said too many people are confused about the alternative gas and electricity suppliers they sign-up with and lose lots of money as a result.

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB), AARP and Illinois-PIRG are calling for legislation and reforms to help consumers save money. They are also in favor of comparison pricing on utility bills and a ban on automatic contract renewals with alternative electricity and natural gas suppliers. 

Jim Chilsen of CUB said with better information, consumers could save money. He said prices charged by utilities to deliver power and natural gas to consumers should be placed on the bill next to the prices charged by the alternative energy supplier serving those consumers.

"In the last two years, electric customers have lost more than $320 million with alternative electric suppliers," Chilsen said.

"We’re getting far too many calls and emails from people confused about offers, from people complaining about misleading marketing and from people who are victimized by ripoffs."

Kevin Wright of the Illinois Competitive Energy Association said consumer groups should wait to see the results of new regulatory rules going into effect in May. 

"We have new rules going into effect. What CUB is proposing is premature until these rules go into effect and have an opportunity to work and clean up the market," he said.

The Illinois Commerce Commission said the rules are really already in effect. May 1, according to ICC spokeswoman Marianne Manko, is the deadline for alternative energy suppliers to be in compliance with the new rules.

Wright believes the new rules "are a giant step forward in protecting consumers from unscrupulous suppliers."

While the consumer groups want a total ban on automatic renewal of contracts with the alternative energy companies, Wright said the new rules require suppliers to send renewal notices to consumers at least 30 days before the new contract would go into effect.