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Could alternative suppliers come knocking again soon?

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, state utility regulators directed all alternative electric and natural gas suppliers to suspend their door-to-door sales because of the transmission risk. But the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) could soon allow doorstep sales now that Illinois is in phase 5 of its reopening plan. 

The proposed orders do not require vaccination for sales representatives, but masks would be mandatory. The orders, which were issued in late July, are not yet finalized but are expected to be soon.  

Previous ICC orders allowed alternative gas and electric suppliers to resume in person sales in retail establishments, such as movie theaters.

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 with an alternative supplier generally costs more than sticking with your utility, which is required by law to pass the cost of gas or electricity onto ratepayers at no markup. Alternative suppliers can charge whatever rates they want.

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 an ICC report, Illinois consumers collectively paid $431 million more with alternative electricity suppliers in the last year than they would have with the regulated utility. Losses total more than $1 billion since 2015. 

Issues with alternative suppliers are among the most frequent complaints CUB hears through its Consumer Hotline (1-800-669-5556). We often hear from consumers about manipulative sales calls, skyrocketing rates and misleading marketing materials. Just last month, the ICC approved a settlement that requires alternative supplier Great American power to pay $325,000 after consumer advocates accused it of failing to comply with state regulations governing alternative suppliers.