At CUB utility-bill clinics across the state, we talk to a lot of people who are, unfortunately, paying a painfully high rate with an alternative supplier. Recently we met Elibrando , who was being charged more than double ComEd’s rate.
Elibrando came to a CUB clinic to find out why his bill was so high. He sat down with CUB program coordinator Matt Harvey, who quickly discovered that Elibrando was paying 16.9 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) with alternative electric supplier Spark Energy.
To give you an idea of just how bad a deal that is, ComEd’s summer rate is 6.725 cents per kWh. So Spark’s price was about 150 percent higher.
Matt called Spark on the spot (a valuable service we perform at our clinics), because Elibrando said he wanted to cancel. However, since the customer’s first language is Spanish, that’s what the rep spoke throughout the call. And when Matt tried to intervene in English, the sales rep pushed back. He made a pitch for Elibrando to stay with Spark.
CUB has seen this happen before. When a customer is on a horrible rate and threatening to cancel, a desperate sales rep may try to sweeten the deal with a lower rate to entice the customer to stay. The problem is when the special offer ends, the customer is once again vulnerable to skyrocketing rates.
In this case, the sales rep offered a $75 gift card—and he tried selling Elibrando on a new price that was lower (a bit more than 7 cents per kWh), but still higher than ComEd.
Ivonne Rychwa, lead community liaison at CUB, was helping consumers just a few tables away. Ivonne, who speaks Spanish, overheard the sales pitch, and, knowing that Elibrando wanted to cancel, she came to the rescue.
“I heard the consumer when he clearly requested the cancellation, but the rep just kept making it harder for him, insisting he could give him a different offer,” she said. “Whenever it’s possible for us to help the consumer call their supplier to cancel, we do it. However, when a customer calls on their own, they are really on their own and they might get lured into another bad deal.”
So one more customer was saved from a bad deal—but how many more are out there?
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