To the Editor:
In 2019, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is celebrating 35 years of serving as Illinois’ premier nonprofit watchdog for utility customers. We’ve saved Illinoisans more than $20 billion over the years.
In honor of our anniversary, here are some of CUB’s summer dos and don’ts.
Don't fall for electric rip-offs. ComEd’s power price (6.725 cents per kilowatt-hour) and Ameren’s rate (4.561 cents per kilowatt-hour) from June through September are both lower than last summer. It’s likely that the alternative suppliers going door-to-door, telemarketing you or mailing you pitches won’t be able to beat the utilities. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office says consumers with alternative electric suppliers have overpaid by more than $600 million since 2015. Beware of rip-offs!
Do practice energy efficiency. It’s saved consumers more than $4 billion since 2008. Thanks to good legislation like the Future Energy Jobs Act, utilities now offer a rich menu of programs that help you save energy and money. You may think you have to start big by replacing windows, but you don’t. You might get a bigger bang for your buck by simply buying discounted LED bulbs, sealing cracks and leaks around your windows, or adding insulation in the attic.
Don't engage with robocallers. Illinoisans were hit with an estimated 1.8 billion robocalls last year, and many were scams. So if you receive a marketing robocall, just hang up. Beware of the “say yes” scam, which tricks callers into saying “yes” to OK unauthorized credit card charges. Even if a robocall instructs you to press a number to stop future calls, don't do it. That could be a trick to confirm your number is active and ripe for more calls. Get CUB’s free guide to fighting robocalls at CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
Do learn about real-time pricing. Both Ameren and ComEd offer these programs, which charge you a market rate that can change by the hour. Savings aren’t guaranteed, but participants have saved an average of 10-15 percent on the supply side of their electric bills. Explore whether Ameren’s Power Smart Pricing (1-877-655-6028) or ComEd’s Hourly Pricing (1-888-202-7787) program is right for you.
Don't fall prey to the utility imposter scam. Across Illinois, scam artists are impersonating utility workers to take peoples’ money. Real utility workers will never ask you to buy a prepaid card to avoid disconnection. If you question whether the person on the phone or at your door is a utility worker, hang up or close the door, call your utility (using the number on your bill) to check.
It’s been an honor to serve Illinois consumers for 35 years. If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about your utility service or rates, please call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, 1-800-669-5556, or visit CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
CUB executive director