In honor of its 35th anniversary, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has released a list of “Dos and Don’ts” – summer tips to help Illinois consumers avoid pitfalls that make their utility bills skyrocket.
“It’s been an honor to serve Illinois consumers for the last 35 years,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “For a consumer advocate that has helped save Illinois utility customers more than $20 billion, there’s no better way to celebrate an anniversary than to give people tips on how to save money this summer.”
After a series of local referendums showed overwhelming support for the creation of an advocate for utility customers, the Illinois General Assembly created CUB in 1983. The CUB Act gave the nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer group the mission to fight for the rights of utility customers across Illinois.
At the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), CUB challenges rate hikes proposed by Illinois’ major gas, electric and water utilities; in Springfield it advocates for legislation that promotes affordable clean energy; and across Illinois it staffs events to help educate consumers about energy efficiency and other ways they can cut their utility bills. The consumer group also has released free guides on fighting robocalls and how to cut smartphone data waste. In recent years, CUB has ramped up advocacy on national issues also, including advocating for better Congressional protections from robocall scams.
Since opening its doors in 1984, CUB has helped save Illinois consumers more than $20 billion—a figure confirmed by the ICC – by fighting rate hikes, winning rate cuts and refunds, and advocating for individual consumers. The consumer group includes an outreach team that staffs up to 500 events a year and a consumer advocacy team that handles thousands of complaints and questions from utility customers who call the Consumer Hotline, at 1-800-669-5556.
DON’T… fall for electric rip-offs. This summer, alternative suppliers going door-to-door, telemarketing mailing pitches may try to lure consumers into a bad deal. ComEd’s power price (6.725 cents per kilowatt-hour) and Ameren Illinois’ rate (4.561 cents per kilowatt-hour) from June through September are both lower than last summer. Residents should be alert for rip-offs that are double the utility rate, or worse.
DO … practice energy efficiency. This has 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 save energy and money. Something as simple as buying discounted LED bulbs, sealing cracks and leaks around your windows or adding insulation in the attic can help savings pile up.
DON’T … engage with robocallers. Illinoisans were hit with an estimated 1.8 billion robocalls last year, and many were scams. Hanging up is the best way to handle these calls. Residents should be aware of the “say yes” scam, which tricks callers into saying “yes” to OK unauthorized credit card charges. An instruction to press a number to stop future calls could be a trick to confirm the phone number is active and ripe for more calls. CUB has a free guide to fighting robocalls at Citizens UtilityBoard.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 are not guaranteed, but participants have saved an average of 10-15% on the supply side of their electric bills.
DON’T… fall prey to the utility imposter scam. Across Illinois, scam artists are impersonating utility workers to take consumers’ money. Real utility workers will never ask the resident to buy a prepaid card to avoid disconnection. Anyone with doubts that the person on the phone or at the door is a utility worker should hang up or close the door, call the utility using the number on the most recent bill to verify the identity of the worker and to verify the account status.
Illinois consumers with questions, concerns or complaints about utility service or rates should call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, 1-800-669-5556, or visit CitizensUtilityBoard.org.