AARP and Citizens Utility Board are promoting new legislative proposals to protect electric customers from fraud. They say the proposals would make it easier for consumers to know what they are buying, when they get phone calls or visits from salespeople pushing alternative electrical contracts.
CUB’s Bryan McDaniel says some of these companies lie about who they are, and target the elderly and impoverished.
"The key to any market is information and transparency, and both are sorely lacking in the Illinois electric choice market," says McDaniel.
The groups are calling for three reforms: a ban on automatic renewal clauses in contracts, a requirement that all bills display the utility’s comparative supply rate, or “price to compare”, and a ban on hidden charges. That third proposal is covered by House Bill 5101, co-sponsored by State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana). The measure is awaiting action in the Illinois House.
McDaniel says Illinois customers lost $197.8 million to unscrupulous alternative electric suppliers in a 12-month period ending last May.
McDaniel says the Illinois Commerce Commission keeps online records of complaints here, and that database rates the quality of these suppliers on a scale of one to five--five being the lowest complaint rate and one being the highest complaint rate.
“Thirty-two suppliers had a three star ranking or less. Twenty-three suppliers had a two star ranking or less," said McDaniel. He was referring to a scorecard of supplier complaints for a recent six month period.
The Illinois House Public Utilities Committee has scheduled a hearing for HB5101 for April 9.