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Consumer Alert: Could alt suppliers be knocking on your door again? 

Breaking News Update, Nov. 5:  Victory for Consumers! The Illinois Commerce Commission voted 3-2 today to keep the moratorium in place. Thank you to all the Illinoisans who used CUB’s Action Network to help send 1,000 messages to state regulators in favor of keeping the ban in place. Your activism makes a difference!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Illinois back in March, state utility regulators have directed all alternative electric and natural gas suppliers to suspend their door-to-door sales because of the transmission risk. But now two Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) judges support a push by ICC staff to allow door-to-door sales to resume, as the state eases restrictions on in-person solicitations as long as sales reps wear masks and practice social distancing.   

(Take action: Tell the ICC NO to door-to-door marketing during the pandemic.)

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) still has to make a final ruling. And CUB has joined Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office in advocating  for the suspension to continue, for health concerns as well as to prevent “potentially predatory” door-to-door marketing of plans “almost certain to cost consumers more,” according to a filing.

Regardless of what happens, remember you don’t have to open your door for anyone. If door-to-door marketing does resume, be on alert: Gas and electricity rates through an alternative supplier generally cost more than sticking with your utility, which is required by law to pass the cost of gas or electricity onto ratepayers at no markup. 

Consumers often believe they’re saving money when they’re signing up for a deal that will likely cost them much more. In fact, according to a new report from the ICC, residential customers have now lost more than $1 billion to alternative electric suppliers in the last 5 years

Issues with alternative suppliers are among the most frequent complaints CUB hears through its Consumer Hotline (1-800-669-5556). We constantly hear from consumers about manipulative sales calls, skyrocketing rates, and misleading marketing materials. Just this year, the ICC fined alternative electricity supplier LifeEnergy $1 million and ordered more than $34,000 in customer refunds for “admitted violations of state marketing and sales rules.”  (And there are three other cases before the ICC against alternative electric suppliers.)   

Alternative suppliers are eager to knock on doors again. During the pandemic, they are posting record-low customer numbers, according to an article by Crain’s Chicago Business

  • The number of Chicago households buying natural gas from a firm other than Peoples Gas dropped 32 percent just in the first nine months of 2020.
  • The number of households getting electricity from a supplier other than ComEd is at its lowest level since 2012.