The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) took a big step in improving the power market, proposing new rules to protect consumers against misleading marketing.
CUB and other consumer advocates applaud the new rules. For about two years, we have been calling for tougher rules to prevent misleading and confusing marketing by alternative electric suppliers. (Read CUB’s statement and send a message to the ICC in favor of the new protections.)
Over the years, CUB has heard horrifying tales of Illinois consumers being charged prices up to six times higher than the regulated utility. Some of those people didn’t even know they were with a power supplier until their bills skyrocketed.
Last September, the ICC began a rulemaking proceeding (Docket No. 15-0512) with the goal of creating a more transparent electricity market. Thanks to Thursday’s vote that goal is now within reach.
The reforms will ensure that working families and seniors are kept safe from high-pressure sale pitches, misleading marketing and rip-offs.
The ICC reforms include:
- Prohibiting alternative suppliers from using a utility’s name and logo to market its products.
- Requiring suppliers to provide 12 months of pricing history for an offer.
- Requiring suppliers to send a separate written notice to customers when a variable rate will increase by 20 percent or more.
- Requiring supplier sales agents to go through a uniform training program, developed by ICC staff.
- Requiring suppliers to permit customers to cancel service without termination fees if the company cannot prove that the customer authorized the switch.
- Requiring suppliers to disclose the terms of renewed contracts. If the new terms differ from the existing contract, then a side-by-side comparison of the existing and new terms must be provided.
- Requiring suppliers to give notice in writing and by telephone that a contract will be renewed.
While the vote is a huge step forward, the new rules will have to survive a lengthy review—so we can’t let up! Please, send a message thanking the ICC and urging it to give final approve.