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CUB urges consumers to call utilities, access protections

CUB is urging Illinois consumers to contact their utility companies to take advantage of consumer protections available to them due to the pandemic.

“If you are struggling to pay your bills, immediately contact your utility to find out what protections are available, and set up a plan to prevent disconnection,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “These protections are available for a limited time and only for customers who call their utility and state they are experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic.”

In June, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved landmark consumer protections negotiated by a coalition of consumer advocates—including CUB—and these utilities: Ameren Illinois, Aqua Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas, Peoples Gas and Utilities Inc.

Most of these utilities have agreed to a moratorium on disconnections until March 31, 2020, with the exception of Aqua and Illinois American. These two utilities agreed to a moratorium for low-income customers and those experiencing financial hardship through March 31, 2021.

The following protections are available only to customers who call and state they are experiencing hardship due to the pandemic:

  • Waiving deposits. Until Dec. 26, utilities must waive deposits connected to late payment or non-payment, arrearages, or credit-related issues for customers experiencing financial hardship. Also, utilities will not report late payments and nonpayment for active customers to credit bureaus and reporting agencies.
  • Consumer-friendly payment plans. Utilities are currently offering longer Deferred Payment Arrangements (DPAs)—plans that help people pay off debt with a utility. DPAs for customers who are LIHEAP-eligible or express financial hardship will not require a down payment and will be extended to 24 months. 
    • North Shore and Peoples Gas will be extending the availability of the 18- and 24-month DPAs through March 31, 2021. CUB is encouraging other utilities to follow suit. 

Some utilities also have a Bill Payment Assistance Program that offers some debt forgiveness for eligible utility customers who apply. Each utility’s program will differ in terms of available funding, the amount allotted to each customer and the way it is administered. CUB urged consumers to ask their utility companies about the program.

Consumers should contact their utilities to access these consumer protections:

  • Ameren Illinois — 1-800-755-5000
  • Aqua Illinois — 1-877-987-2782
  • ComEd — 1-800-334-7661
  • Illinois American Water — 1-800-422-2782
  • Nicor Gas — 1-888-642-6748
  • North Shore Gas — 1-866-556-6004
  • Peoples Gas — 1-866-556-6001
  • Utilities Inc. — 1-800-831-2359