Each year, CUB’s Consumer Advocacy Department handles nearly 10,000 calls, emails and letters from Illinoisans with questions or complaints about utility service. The team has saved individuals thousands of dollars by identifying errors on electric, gas and phone bills.
Consumer Advocacy Director Sandra Marcelin-Reme said a lot of problems stem from a lack of communication.
“Unfortunately, we often find utility customer service representatives who don’t have proper knowledge of the rules, or don’t properly hear the customer out,” Sandra said. “Customers with individual problems get too many one-size-fits-all responses.”
That’s why reading your bill is so important, said Annette Evans, a consumer rights associate. “If you understand your bill, you’re in a much better position to negotiate.”
As Senior Consumer Rights Specialist Aimee Gendusa-English sees it, she’s “building an army of resistance” against unfairness and misinformation. The key to doing her job well is listening to consumers and asking the right questions.
Add to that another rule of good consumer advocacy: Never end a conversation feeling nothing was accomplished. “I want them to know that I’m trying—I’m working hard for the consumer,” said Consumer Rights Associate Danielle Holmes.
The job has its share of downs—like when nothing more can be done to help. However, when consumers write or call back to say their problems have been resolved, it makes up for the frustrations.
“That’s the best,” said Ivonne Hernandez, bilingual consumer rights associate. “When the consumer calls and says ‘My account was credited.’”
If you have a question, concern, or complaint about your utility service, call CUB’s Consumer Advocacy Team, at 1-800-669-5556.