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AARP Op Ed about ARES Bill agreement

Posted on 06/05/19

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It’s a relief to see that alternative retail energy suppliers, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and legislators have come to an agreement on safeguards regarding the way the industry lures in and retains unsuspecting customers.

As a non-profit, non-partisan organization that represents 1.7 million older adults across the state, AARP Illinois knew all too well about the struggles of customers who could not get out from under such companies’ strong holds.

Chicagoans like Talibah Moore, who unknowingly signed up for an alternative energy company while distracted and tending to her three children during a shopping trip. The representative from the alternative energy supplier convinced her to sign a contract by promising her a $70 gift card. She then spent the next several years trying to get out of the deal, which cost her hundreds of extra dollars and eventually required her to get on a payment plan because she couldn’t keep up.

Or Donna Carpenter, who cares for her adult son with disabilities and signed onto alternative electric supplier not once, but twice, when they came to her door promising cheaper rates and gift cards. Carpenter’s bills spiked so high she could no longer pay her bills and the utility threatened to cut her electricity.

Unsuspecting customers like these were the reason that for two straight years, consumers using these retail suppliers collectively overpaid by more than $100 million; and customer complaints to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities and oversees power marketers, spiked 70 percent in 2018 compared with the year before, as highlighted in Crain’s coverage.

Such offenses will be far less common with the newly agreed-upon legislation, which, among other things:

· Requires comparison prices to be included on all supplier marketing materials, during telephone or door-to-door solicitations, and on every consumer’s utility bill

· Completely eliminates early termination fees and penalties

· Prevents suppliers from renewing a consumer’s contract without notifying the consumer of the new rate;

· Stops switching consumers from fixed to variable rates without their consent;

· Protects public energy assistance funds from being wasted to pay the higher prices charged by alternative retail energy suppliers;

· Requires suppliers to report their rates to the Illinois Commerce Commission and Attorney General;

This is an important measure that will protect older adults and their families from losing hard-earned money needed to continue living and aging comfortably in Illinois. We are grateful that lawmakers, the Attorney General and alternative retail electric supplier industry have worked together in the best interest of Illinois residents.

Bob Gallo

AARP Illinois State Director

This story is provided by AARP Illinois. Visit the AARP Illinois page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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