ICC Issues Stringent Consumer Protection Rules For Retail Electric Suppliers
By unanimous vote, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) issued a First Notice Order (Docket No. 15-0512) on September 22, making significant changes to the marketing rules retail electric suppliers must follow in the Prairie State.
After electricity prices spiked during the “Polar Vortex” winter of 2013-2014, the commission’s Consumer Services Division recorded a sharp increase in complaints from the public about the aggressive marketing practices of retail electric suppliers. The September 22 decision comes after a thorough review of the marketing practices these companies must follow and significantly enhances requirements for consumer protection.
“These new rules will deter retail electric suppliers from using deceptive marketing practices and protect consumers by providing them with clear information necessary to make informed decisions,” said ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan. “We thank Commission staff for its work, and the Attorney General [Lisa Madigan] and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) for their advocacy and assistance in strengthening these rules.”
The new rules include the following key provisions:
· Expanded consumer protections through additional marketing controls of sales solicitations:
Controls will include recorded third-party verification of door-to-door sales and require that the salesperson is not present during the verification. Telemarketing sales calls and verification calls will be available to the ICC to ensure compliance with rules. Retail electric suppliers also will be restricted from using utility names and logos.
· Standardized contract content and descriptions, including a “Uniform Disclosure Statement” for all retail electric supplier solicitations that will allow consumers to better compare offers and make informed decisions. Descriptions of “fixed rate” offers must include only those rates that do not change; rates that can change must be called “variable rates.” Suppliers are to follow appropriate restrictions when marketing “renewable” or “green” energy offers.
· Requirement that retail electric suppliers post their residential offers on the ICC’s PlugInIllinois.org website. The website will be enhanced and promoted to make consumers better aware of their rights and options as they shop the market, which will include comparisons between the rate offered by the retail electric supplier and the utility’s supply rate. \
“These rules ensure a robust competitive market balanced with strong consumer protections,” said ICC Executive Director Cholly Smith. “With today’s action, we look forward to entering the public comment period of the rulemaking process.”
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