CUB services have saved participants an average of about $26 a month on their utility bills, according to a staff review.
COVID-19 may have brought CUB’s in-person events to a halt, but that hasn’t stopped CUB’s outreach team from working hard to serve consumers through online events and services.
Along with hosting educational webinars and online workshops, we are offering a Virtual Utility Bill Clinic service to better serve consumers during the pandemic.
CUB’s virtual clinic service alerts you if:
- You’re paying any unnecessary charges or getting scammed
- You’re eligible for money-saving programs or financial assistance
- You have different options for TV and telecom services
- There are ways to make your home more energy-efficient and save money
In the past two months, we’ve had 74 consumers submit utility bills for review.
On average, for cases that had monthly savings, we were able to save consumers $25.99 a month. In one of our biggest victories, CUB Lead Service Liaison Aimee Gendusa-English was able to secure a monthly savings of $116 for former Chicago Ald. Mary Ann Smith, who had called our consumer hotline.
“I called the helpline and sent a package of bills including cable, telephone, electric and gas,” Mary said. “Your staff was amazingly efficient at follow-up and thorough beyond my expectations. You’re doing a great job!”
Adapting to online-only events has brought on challenges as well. “A lot of people send in bill info in a format I can’t use,” Aimee said. “They take a picture or screenshot of something that only shows the amount due, but not the meter readings, the energy consumption history or the supply rates.”
But those issues aren’t nearly as difficult as dealing with high charges by alternative suppliers, which are notorious for overcharging and scamming their customers.
Typically, a utility charges you for the power you use and the cost of delivering it to you. But consumers can choose another company to supply the actual electricity. While it is illegal for regulated utilities (ComEd and Ameren) to make a profit off of what it charges you to supply your energy, alternative suppliers are unregulated and can charge whatever they want.
CUB staffers found 27 alternative electric suppliers and 10 alternative gas suppliers on consumers’ bills during these clinics.
The worst alternative electric supplier rate was 16.9 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from Spark Energy, which is nearly triple ComEd’s supply rate of 6.473 cents per kWh. The worst alternative gas supplier rate was 56 cents a therm from Just Energy, which is double the cost of regulated gas suppliers (ranging from 26 to 31.25 cents a therm).
In today’s current electricity and gas markets, the regulated utility is most likely to be the most cost-effective for consumers.
If you want to get your bills analyzed, email a copy of your most recent electric, natural gas, and telecom bills to [email protected] (put “Attn: Virtual Utility Bill Clinic” in the subject line) or register for an upcoming Virtual Utility Bill Clinic.