Rep. Evans Advocates for Major Reforms to Address Utility Rip-Offs

04/30/2018

For Immediate Release April 9, 2018
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(Chicago, IL) — Illinois State Representative Marcus C. Evans, Jr. joins AARP and Citizens Utility Board (CUB) to address consumer losses in Illinois to electric and gas suppliers. Spurred by unprecedented financial losses among electric customers across Illinois, a coalition of consumer advocates on Tuesday called for the General Assembly to pass sweeping reforms to curb abuses by unregulated gas and electric suppliers that peddle offers door-to-door, over the phone or via mail.

In news conferences across the state this week, AARP Illinois, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Illinois PIRG asked residents to visit CUBActionCenter.com, where they can get tips on how to avoid bad deals and send a message to their legislators urging them to clean up the electric and gas markets.

ComEd and Ameren Illinois customers can choose a company other than the regulated utility to supply their electricity, and people in Northern Illinois also can choose unregulated natural gas suppliers. If a customer chooses another supplier, those charges are included on utility bills. But consumers often complain about confusing offers, misleading marketing, and rip-offs that are double or triple the supply rate offered by the regulated utility.

While the ICC has taken steps to address the problems, consumer advocates said even stronger reforms are needed to stop a wave of electric and gas rip-offs.

They called for three key reforms:
Ban automatic renewal of contracts. Customers often complain that their rate with a supplier
skyrocketed after the offer they originally signed up for was automatically renewed at a significantly higher rate. Offers should only be renewed if a customer opts in to the new offer, consumer advocates said.

Mandate that the utility’s “price to compare” be displayed on all bills. The utility’s price to compare is the rate against which all supplier deals should be judged. Currently, that price is not clearly or prominently displayed on electric and gas utility bills—and it is not on the bill if a customer is signed up with a supplier.

Forbid suppliers from hiding their charges on utility bills. Under current rules, alternative electric and gas suppliers are allowed to include their charges on utility bills, but that makes it difficult for customers to spot bad deals.

However, House Bill 5101, sponsored by Rep. Marcus C. Evans, Jr. of Chicago, would require suppliers to send their own bills to customers if they market door-to-door, via mail, or over the phone.

“I am serious about protecting Illinois consumers and keeping utility costs down for the working-class citizens of Illinois,” Rep. Evans said. “Utility services such as electric and gas are essential means of living. Access to fair-priced utilities is not a privilege, but is a right and needs to be protected,” says Rep. Evans

“Consumers across Illinois are getting ripped off by alternative electric and gas suppliers who can hide behind major utility companies,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. “It’s time to bring some-more transparency to the process and give consumers the chance to make reliable, transparent, informed decisions about their utility services. Illinois consumers deserve better.”
“Nobody wants to get ripped off,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “These common-sense
reforms are urgently needed because they will protect customers from bad deals and make the market stronger.”

Since 2010, consumers across Illinois have been able to choose a company other than the regulated utility to supply their electricity. Gas competition has been around even longer, and began to take off in 2003 in Northern Illinois. Customers in Central and Southern Illinois currently cannot choose alternative gas suppliers, but in recent years there have been efforts to open up those markets also.

CUB has seen consumers paying alternative supplier prices that are significantly higher than the utility
rates. In 2017, the consumer watchdog fielded hundreds of complaints or questions from Illinois consumers about alternative suppliers, and this year the watchdog continues to get a steady stream of calls.

For more information, please contact Evans' full-time constituent service office at 773-783-8492, email repevans33@gmail.com or visit www.staterepevans33.com.

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