News Local/State

Senate Measure Would Protect Consumers Against ‘Deceptive’ Energy Suppliers

Power lines.

Illinois' attorney general and some lawmakers want to make sure consumers who use private utility companies are protected from fraudulent contracts. Chris Hunkeler/Flickr: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Illinois Senate last week approved increased protections for those who use alternative electric and gas suppliers. 

Consumers leave their public utility companies with promises they’ll save a few dollars on their monthly bills. Private suppliers may even offer free electricity in exchange for a contract. 

But state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, said many end up paying more.

“I’m actually a victim of one of the utility companies…my electric bill remained the same for a couple of months, it went up slightly the second month, and by the third or fourth month it ballooned to an $800 bill for one month.”

Under the Senate plan, suppliers can still provide their services as long as contracts don’t automatically rollover and consumers are informed about any rate increases before they happen. Suppliers would also need to report their rates to the Illinois Commerce Commission and attorney general.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul said suppliers' deceptive practices often hurt those who can't afford to pay more.

"Many families in Illinois struggle to pay for essentials, and spending money on high-priced energy contracts could mean that families are forced to choose between necessities like groceries or medications and heat," he said in a written statement. 

The bill is SB651, which now moves to the Illinois House. It passed the Senate on a 43-10 vote.