While CUB’s legal and policy teams fought $6 billion in higher rates in the first quarter of 2016, the consumer advocacy and outreach departments were busy too, helping consumers save an estimated $58,828.08.
According to CUB records, the outreach department–which holds money-saving events across Illinois–showed consumers how to cut their utility bills by roughly $42,951.58. CUB’s Consumer Advocacy team, which handles thousands of complaints from Illinois utility customers, helped people save $15,876.50.
Not a day goes by where CUB’s eight-member outreach team isn’t at an event, helping somebody, somewhere save money. The department represented CUB at 115 events from January through March.
CUB staffers are featured at speaking engagements and they staff tables at community fairs, but the most popular event the watchdog group holds is the utility-bill clinic. That’s where CUB experts sit down with consumers to go over their electric, gas and phone bills to explain the confusing charges, spot bad alternative electric/gas supplier deals and give them tips on how to cut costs.
So far this year, CUB has shown consumers how to save electric, gas and phone customers a total of $1,389.26 a month, or potentially $16,671.12 a year.
The outreach department also hands out free money-saving Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs and helps sign people up for special programs that can cut their electric and gas bills, including energy efficiency opportunities and ComEd’s Peak Time Savings program. Through program sign-ups the team potentially saved consumers a total of $26,280.46.
CUB’s Consumer Advocacy team only has three staffers, but it handles up to 9,000 complaints and inquiries a year. These are phone calls, emails and letters from people who are in a jam with their utility company, stuck on a bad alternative gas or electric supplier deal, or have called the utility several times and have gotten nowhere with their complaints.
Many times a year, CUB is able to advocate for these consumers and erase erroneous charges or secure refunds. In the first three months of 2016, the consumer advocates handled 782 complaints/inquiries and saved consumers a total of $15,876.50.
CUB Executive Director David Kolata said he is proud that his staff has shown people how to save nearly $60,000 in just the first quarter of 2016.
“We know people are supporting us with their hard-earned money–donations of $5 a year on up,” Kolata said. “That’s why we take our mission seriously and keep so busy talking to so many people across the state. There’s not much time to rest when there are so many utility bills to cut.”