Consumer protection
1:34 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Quinn signs four consumer-protection laws

Gov. Pat Quinn today signed four consumer-protection laws banning false phone charges known as “cramming,” lowering utility costs, and helping resolve billing and credit issues.

“When everyday people work together for the common good, we can improve our state,” Quinn said. “We need to keep fighting for consumer rights in Illinois and ensure those rights are protected from those who would take advantage of them.”

An end to "cramming"

House Bill 5211 bans third-party vendors from charging customers for unwanted services, a practice known as cramming, starting Jan. 1, 2013. The bill was an initiative of the Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, which found vendors using deceptive sales pitches and placing unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills for things they never intended to buy. These charges range from $10 to $45 dollars and often go undetected because consumers do not pay attention to all the details in their phone bills.

“Today we can finally put an end to a pervasive scam that has allowed phone companies to rake in $2 billion a year by ‘cramming’ charges on subscribers’ bills for unwanted and unused services,” Madigan said. “Far too many consumers have opened their monthly phone bills to find bogus charges they never authorized. I applaud the governor for his support of this law to stop to our phone numbers being used as credit cards by scammers.”

Credit for paid-off utility bills

House Bill 5025 will help consumers resolve negative effects on their credit records by requiring public utilities to notify credit reporting agencies when a customer has paid off their outstanding balances in full. This measure will allow utility customers to be more quickly relieved of pressure from collection agencies and help them improve their credit scores. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Township electrical aggregation

Senate Bill 3170 allows townships to participate in electrical aggregation the same way counties and municipalities can under current law. Aggregation allows for greater group energy purchasing, which increases competition and lowers costs for consumers. According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, more than 90 municipalities have become power aggregators since 2010, which has allowed for greater consumer savings. The law goes into effect immediately.

Equal treatment for 'net metering'

Senate Bill 3811 protects the ability of certain groups to continue to benefit from “net metering,” which allows customers who generate their own renewable energy to sell excess power back to an electricity provider. The measure provides that net metering customers will be treated equally regardless of the competitiveness of their local energy market. The law goes into effect immediately.