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Shopping for electricity/gas? Become a detail person

We have a database full of people who signed up for what they thought was a good deal from an alternative electric or gas supplier–before they got slammed with an extremely high rate.

If you want to shop in the electric or gas markets in Illinois, or if you’re approached by a company pitching an offer to you, make sure to check these details.

  • Find out what the company is charging and how that compares with the utility’s price. Ask whether it’s a fixed rate, and for how long, or a variable rate that changes on a monthly basis.
  • Ask if the rate is an introductory rate, how long it lasts and what the new rate will be. CUB receives a lot of complaints from people who say the low price they signed up for disappeared after a few months and their bill skyrocketed.
  • Ask if there is a monthly fee. CUB has seen fees as high as $9 a month. That will increase the per kilowatt-hour or per therm charge.
  • Ask if there is an exit fee to leave a plan before the contract is up. Consumers don’t have to pay a cancellation penalty if they cancel a contract within 10 days of the supplier’s charges first appearing on the bill.
  • Be careful about people at the door who say they’re from the “electric company” or “gas company” and offer to lower bills. Customers should not give out their account number or bill unless they’re absolutely sure they want to sign up for an offer. A dishonest sales representative who gets your account number can sign you up for an alternative supplier without your permission.