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New state report: $340 million in consumer losses with alternative suppliers

More than 1 in 5 Northern Illinois electric customers are signed up to get their electric supply from a company other than Commonwealth Edison, and many are paying more than they need to.

A recent report shows that over the last year households using alternative suppliers paid a total of $152 million more then they would have if they stuck with ComEd. On average, that amounted to 1.5 cents more per kilowatt-hour, or 24 percent above ComEd’s rate.

The report, by the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Office of Retail Market Development, found that over the last three years, Northern Illinois consumers with alternative suppliers paid a total of $340.7 million more than they would have had ComEd been their supplier.  The figures are in sharp contrast to the numbers from 2012 to 2014, when customers saved $320.4 million.

Aggregate Savings/Loss:

2012 (June 2011 through May 2012): $24.2 million savings

2013 (June 2012 through May 2013):  $257.5 million savings

2014 (June 2013 through May 2014): $38.7 million savings

2015 (June 2014 through May 2015): $73.4 million loss

2016 (June 2015 through May 2016): $115.2 million loss

2017 (June 2016 through May 2017): $152.1 million loss

A major reason people enjoyed savings in the early years of Illinois’ power market was because ComEd was locked into higher priced electricity contracts. That elevated ComEd’s supply rate and allowed alternative suppliers to beat its price. The last of those higher priced contracts expired in 2013.

In June, the ICC unanimously approved stronger consumer protections to help people avoid bad electric deals. For example, under the new rules, suppliers must:

-Provide 12 months of pricing history for a variable offer.

-Notify customers when a variable rate will increase by at least 20 percent.

-Notify customers (by letter and telephone) that a contract will be renewed.

-Limit door-to-door marketing to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (or dusk, whichever is earlier).

-Have third-party verification process for door-to-door and telemarketing sales.

The General Assembly’s bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will give the rules a final review. It can OK the rules or block them and require changes before allowing them to be adopted.

Check out these stories on the state report from ABC 7 Chicago and Crain’s Chicago Business. Also, check out CUB’s electric page for tips on which red flags to look for with alternative suppliers.