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Should customers fund ComEd’s “marketing charm offensive”?

Crain’s Chicago Business recently wrote how ComEd wants customers to help pay for the utility’s “marketing charm offensive” in the wake of its corruption scandal.  

In a proceeding  before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), Attorney General Kwame Raoul is urging state regulators to make ComEd, and not its customers, pay for nearly $1 million in costs connected to PR campaigns that the AG Office’s witness called “goodwill advertising to enhance ComEd’s image.”

The PR campaigns include the celebratory turning on of Buckingham Fountain, a “Solar Education & Outreach” photo contest, and the EV rally for girls in STEM. All of these events are fine ideas–but why should ratepayers shoulder a $985,000 burden to help rehabilitate ComEd’s tainted image? If the company wants to hold such events, shareholders should foot the bill.

 As Crain’s reporter Steve Daniels writes:  “The utility’s reputation is in dire need of burnishing after three years of relentless public focus, in the press and in the court system, on its near decade of public corruption, to which it admitted in an agreement with federal prosecutors and which meant making billions over time, captured from ratepayers.” 

ComEd customers did get a $38 million refund in April tied to the utility’s corruption scandal. That refund wasn’t enough, CUB and Attorney General Raoul argued. Going forward, consumer advocates are working to hold the company accountable–which is why CUB supports the AG’s argument that customers shouldn’t pay anything connected to those PR events. (And it’s why we’re fighting to cut nearly a billion dollars off the company’s record 4-year, $1.5 billion rate-hike request.)

“Utility companies love to nickel and dime us, and charging us for these PR campaigns is a good example,” CUB General Counsel Eric DeBellis said. “Nobody’s telling ComEd or any other utilities that they shouldn’t hold community events–we’re just saying make your shareholders, not customers, pay for it. Electric bills are high enough without these extra burdens.”  

Earlier this week, CUB took aim at another annoying practice by utilities–making customers pay for their dues to industry groups that actively work against our interests. If you want to tell Washington to make utilities stop, send a message about the Ethics in Energy Act.

Consumers are encouraged to sign CUB’s petition against ComEd’s rate hike and file a public comment with the Illinois Commerce Commission. 

For more information on Illinois utilities’ record-breaking $2.9 billion in rate-hike requests, visit the CUB Help Center and learn more about how you can take action.