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In 35 years of consumer advocacy, this is one of the highest gas rates CUB has ever seen

Dale Fiene has his gas bill set to autopay, so he doesn’t usually look at it too closely—until January, that is, when his gas bill soared to more than $440.

By the time he got his most recent bill this March, he saw that his gas supplier was listed as Spark Energy, and his rate had reached a whopping $1.42 per therm. That’s almost quadruple Nicor’s rate!

“I have never noticed this before, as I had no reason to believe that anything had changed,” Dale said. “If they had not gotten greedy, I probably would never have noticed.”

But neither Dale or his wife ever signed up with Spark, nor do they remember even speaking with a sales representative. They had been “slammed.” That means someone used their meter and account number to switch their gas supplier to Spark Energy without their permission.

The couple did receive a letter back in November 2017 saying that they would be switched to Spark, but Dale called Nicor and said he never authorized a switch, so the two thought that was the end of it.

Looking back at their old bills, they saw that their rate with Spark Energy started at 48 cents per therm (compared with Nicor’s 32 cents per therm rate) in December of 2017, as the letter had said. But then the rate began to rise steadily each month, peaking at $1.42 per therm, which is easily one of the highest gas rates, if not the highest rate, CUB has ever seen. Dale and his wife, by his reckoning, have overpaid for gas by over $1,000.

At first, Spark told Dale they could not find his account. It took a search by meter number to discover it. When Spark did find the account, the number associated with it differed from Dale’s actual Nicor account number by one digit, and listed a nonexistent address about 70 miles away from his home. 

Spark did agree to re-rate Dale’s bill, and he’s still waiting for the promised refund.

“I have no idea of how they were able to get my meter and account number, which evidently is all that is needed to be able to get Nicor to switch the supplier,” Dale said. “Anything I can do to prevent this happening to someone else, I’ll do it.”