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Serving consumers in a crisis: New CUB service helps Glen Ellyn resident cut costs

As the world adapts to Coronavirus, so does CUB. We recently launched a service—virtual utility bill clinics—to replace our popular in-person events until the public health crisis ends.

Our first virtual bill inquiry came from Alma, a consumer with alternative supplier Constellation Energy. She emailed copies of her electric and gas bills to CUB’s Aimee Gendusa-English, who found that Alma could have saved about $18 that month by switching back to her utilities.  Potentially, that’s more than $200 year.

“I’m afraid they may be overcharging me,” the Glen Ellyn resident wrote in her email to CUB. 

Indeed, Constellation was hitting her with higher rates. Her regulated gas utility, Nicor, had a rate of 26 cents per therm when Alma paid 26.5 cents per therm. The slight difference amounted to an additional 72 cents on her March gas bill.

Although 72 cents isn’t much, Alma had bigger problems with her electric bill. Constellation’s rate, 8.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), was about 17 percent higher than ComEd’s price of 7.175 cents per kWh. So in March, Alma spent $17.56 more than she needed to on her electric bill. 

With Aimee’s assistance and encouragement, Alma canceled her alternative supplier service and switched back to her utilities and their regulated rates.

“Constellation came through our neighborhood a few years ago,” she told CUB. “They were good sales people. They talked me into their service, and I always wondered if signing up with them was a bad idea.”

“I am really glad that CUB has a way to check that out for me.”

CUB has found that almost all alternative supplier deals cost more than the utility in the long run. In fact, Attorney General Kwame Raoul has said that over the last five years, Illinois consumers have overpaid by more than $870 million on electric offers. Many companies lure customers in with the promise of lower rates only to jack up the price after a few months of service. 

Alma encourages other Illinois ratepayers to send their bills to CUB for analysis. Submitting her bills for review was not only safe in the time of Coronavirus but simple and straightforward, too, she said.

“Aimee answered me right away,” Alma said. “The whole process was very easy. I just took a quick snapshot of my bills and sent them to her in an email.” 

To have your bills analyzed, send copies of your most recent electric, natural gas, and telecom bills to CUB at ubc@citizensutilityboard.org. (Put “Attn: Virtual Utility Bill Clinic” in the subject line.) A CUB specialist will look them over to see if you’re signed up with an alternative supplier or if you’re paying for unnecessary products and services.

We’ll also let you know how your usage compares to other consumers, tell you if you’re eligible for money-saving programs, including financial assistance, and guide you to free energy-efficiency products and services.

If you need help submitting your bills, please watch our tutorial video: