A Genoa resident received a $500 refund after being overcharged for months by an alternative electric and gas supplier, thanks to CUB’s Bilingual Consumer Rights Specialist Annie Warnock.
When Gayle filed a complaint with Residents Energy, he was paying 15.53 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity — more than double the 7.2 cents per kWh ComEd was charging at the time. That means Gayle paid nearly $80 for electricity supply in one month when he could have paid just $37.
But Gayle’s electricity bill wasn’t his only worry — he was also paying Residents Energy for his gas supply, and that rate was an even bigger rip-off.
Nicor Gas, his regulated gas utility, was charging customers 27 cents per therm that month while Residents Energy was charging Gayle 83.8 cents per therm — 210 percent more than what he should have paid with Nicor. So last December, Gayle could have paid $43 for gas supply from Nicor, but ended up forking over $134 to the alternative supplier instead.
“I was being horribly overcharged, and I’m on a tight income,” Gayle said. “It’s been an awful nightmare for me.”
Last year, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) listed Residents as having a higher than average complaint rate. After receiving an unsatisfactory response from the supplier, Gayle called CUB. Thanks to assistance from Annie, Residents paid Gayle the difference between the rate he paid the supplier and what the utilities would have charged him for both gas and electric — a refund of $500.
“I certainly appreciate CUB’s help,” Gayle said. “I was just glad to stop being exploited, and then I got my checks in the mail.”
Over the nine months Gayle was registered with the alternative supplier, Residents overcharged him by $318.37 for electric and $180.70 for gas.
“Unlike regulated utilities, alternative suppliers can set the price of supply, and they often take advantage of that. Gayle was getting hit with astronomical rates,” Annie Warnock said. “I am so glad he called CUB. We were able to get him a $500 refund and have Residents review his enrollment process.”
After Gayle filed his complaint, Residents looked deeper into his account and found evidence of misconduct when reviewing Gayle’s enrollment with Residents. According to Residents, the responsible agent was immediately suspended, and the supplier launched an investigation into all sales processed by the agent to ensure no other consumers were affected.
Like Residents, many alternative suppliers hire marketing companies to conduct their sales, whether over the phone or door-to-door. Many times, representatives from these third party companies are untrained and know next to nothing about the offers they are selling consumers. Knowing this, CUB advocated for the newly-passed HEAT Act, which requires all suppliers to train sales representatives that conduct in-person marketing and provide a “refresher” training every six months.
“The HEAT Act includes very important consumer protections, however, consumers should always be their own best advocate,” Annie said. “You should never feel pressured to say yes to a salesperson. Take your time, do your own research, and remember that CUB is in your corner — call us if you need help.”