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Step forward in Illinois: ICC OKs new protections against electric rip-offs

After three years of hard work by consumer advocates and regulators, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) today voted to finalize new consumer protections against electric rip-offs.

The key rules require alternative electric suppliers to:

-Obtain a third-party verification of a door-to-door sale or a “Letter of Agency” (documentation in which a customer authorizes a switch).

-Notify a customer by letter and “one additional means of communication” that a contract is being renewed.

-Provide 12 months of pricing history for a variable rate offer (an offer that can change monthly).

-Send customers a separate written notice when a variable rate will increase by at least 20 percent.

-Limit door-to-door marketing to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or dusk, whichever comes first.

-Require a supplier that promises savings to provide a written statement to the customer detailing such a claim.

In the summer of 2014, CUB and the City of Chicago requested an investigation of Illinois’ electricity market, prompted by reports of confusing and/or misleading offers and high prices. After a series of workshops, the ICC started a rulemaking proceeding in September of 2015, with the goal of increasing consumer protections for electricity shoppers. A year later regulators voted for new marketing rules for suppliers, which were then subject to review and changes by a state legislative committee.

Today’s vote ends the process.

“You can’t have a healthy electricity market without strong consumer protections,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “We thank the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) for its efforts to strengthen the rules and we look forward to working with the commission to protect all consumers from being preyed upon by bad actors in the electric market.”