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Julie’s report: Big ICC developments against bad power marketing

20150922_ICCAdvocacyItem_fbToday, CUB sent out an alert from Litigation Director Julie Soderna about two big developments in the battle to clean up Illinois’ competitive electricity market. The consumer watchdog is asking everyone to send a message to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), urging regulators: Don’t stop now!

Here’s what’s happened….

Julie Soderna, CUB litigation director

Julie Soderna, CUB litigation director

Sperian Probe (Docket No. 15-0438): The ICC recently launched an investigation into possible deceptive telemarketing by Sperian, an alternative electricity supplier. The probe comes after regulators saw an uptick in complaints about the company. Amazingly, ICC staffers uncovered evidence that somebody at Sperian may have doctored telemarketing scripts before sending them to the ICC–to make them seem less deceptive.

Market Reforms (Docket No. 15-0512): ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan this month announced a rulemaking proceeding to implement stronger consumer protections against misleading marketing from electric suppliers. Commissioner Miguel del Valle called the move “a long-awaited and much needed step.”

The ICC put this proceeding on a fast track so we get better rules in place sooner. The proposed reforms include:

  • Requiring comparisons between the rate offered by the new supplier and the regulated utility’s supply rate;
  • Requiring a supplier to publish on its website and on bills the applicable variable rate (a rate that can change monthly) 45 days in advance of the calendar month in which it will be charged;
  • Requiring alternative suppliers to explain how a variable rate  is determined and an explanation of the conditions of any guaranteed savings;
  • Requiring suppliers to send a notice to customers on a variable rate if that rate changes by 30% or more;
  • Expanding the definition of doorstep sales and additional disclosure requirements for these “in person” sales;
  • Requiring that all telemarketing enrollment calls be recorded, and that there is a third-party verification for such calls;
  • Requiring a supplier to contact the customer between 30-60 days of the end of the contract to notify the customer of an automatic renewal;
  • Requiring that retail electric suppliers post their residential offers on PlugInIllinois.org.

The rulemaking comes more than a year after CUB and the City of Chicago called for an investigation of the electric market, to weed out bad players and their bad deals. More than 1,700 people signed CUB’s petition to the ICC asking it to investigate.

This just shows that our hard work is paying off. So please, send a message to the ICC today: Thank you, and keep fighting to clean up Illinois’ electric market.