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CUB proposal: Videotape door-to-door power pitches

Today, we issued a consumer alert urging people to sign CUB’s petition asking the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to require electricity suppliers to videotape their door-to-door electricity pitches.

Such a proposal is probably a first in the nation, and the alternative electricity suppliers (of course) are fighting it tooth and nail. This is the latest development in a campaign for a better electricity market in Illinois that dates back to the summer of 2014.

That’s when CUB and the City of Chicago asked the ICC to investigate the electricity market, to help weed out misleading marketing. This past September, CUB was happy to hear that the ICC initiated a rulemaking proceeding to beef up consumer protections in Illinois’ electricity market.

The staff of the ICC has proposed several excellent improvements. Some of the additional reforms CUB would like to see:

  • Require electricity suppliers to videotape and sound-record their own pitches at a consumer’s doorstep. (Note: The sales rep would be videotaped, not the consumer.) Also, CUB is pushing for all telemarketing pitches to be recorded.
  • Add a general provision to the rules that requires suppliers to provide factual information about their offers.
  • Prohibit unregulated suppliers from using the name and logo of the regulated utility to market their products. (There are unregulated sister companies to the utilities that use the utility name and logo and market their offers in Illinois.)
  • Prohibit alternative suppliers from automatically renewing customers. If a customer doesn’t respond to a renewal notice, then he or she would be sent back to the regulated utility, under the proposal. A lot of consumers complain about being switched to a high variable rate after being automatically renewed.
  • Require suppliers to clearly notify customers of a variable rate at least 30 days before the rate takes effect. Unlike a fixed rate, a variable rate changes on a monthly basis, and CUB has gotten many complaints from consumers who received no warning before getting slammed with extremely high variable rates. CUB also wants to require suppliers to give a separate notice if the variable rate is expected to jump by 20 percent or more.

We’ll continue to work for a better electricity market, but we need your help because power suppliers are fighting us. Please sign CUB’s petition today.