IL Attorney General Urges Passage Of Bill Which Would Generally Ban Retail Supplier Service To Assistance Program Customers
--- Require Affirmative Consent For Renewals
--- Require Suppliers To Report All Rates To Attorney General
--- Require Written Notice Of Rate Change
--- Require Disclosure of 12 Months Of PTCs In Marketing
--- Require Utility Supply Rate On Supplier Bills
--- AG Says Customers On Retail Supply Paid $600 Million More Than SOS
April 23, 2019 Email This Story Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul today urged the General Assembly, "to support legislation that will protect consumers from high-priced alternative retail electric and gas suppliers, which claim to offer cheaper energy rates than traditional utility companies but are almost always more expensive."
The AG was specifically urging lawmakers to approve SB0651
Teresa Ringenbach, Sr. Manager, Government & Regulatory Affairs, Direct Energy said of the bill, "The Attorney General is proposing the wrong remedy for restoring confidence in the electricity market. This bill as is will take away the rights of Illinois households and small businesses to choose their energy supplier and force them back to the monopoly utility. Rather than shutdown the entire market, the right thing to do is to make the market better with thoughtful price guardrails, same-day switching, greater transparency and stronger enforcement."
The bill would provide that an ARES shall not automatically renew a contract with a residential customer at a rate higher than the initial term of the contract or automatically change or renew a fixed rate contract to a variable rate contract. A residential customer may agree to a contract renewal at a rate higher than the initial term of the contract if the residential customer expressly consents to the contract renewal in writing or by an electronic signature.
The bill would also provide that, an alternative retail electric supplier shall, on January 1, 2020 and every first day of each quarter thereafter, submit to the Commission and the Office of the Attorney General the rates the retail electric supplier charged to residential customers in the prior quarter, including each distinct rate charged and whether the rate was a fixed or variable rate, the basis for the variable rate, and any fees charged in addition to the supply rate, including monthly fees, flat fees, or other service charges
The bill provides that, no less than 30 days but no more than 60 days before a residential customer's price per kilowatt hour or other charge changes, an ARES shall send a separate written notice by United States Mail or electronic mail, as specified by the residential customer, addressed to the residential customer informing the residential customer of the upcoming change in price or other charge; the changed price per kilowatt hour or other charge shall be included in the notice and shall not require the residential customer to visit or log on to a website to obtain the change in price or other charge
The bill provides that all marketing materials and solicitations shall disclose the Historical Prices to Compare from the immediately preceding 12 months as displayed on the Plug-In Illinois website maintained by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Similar to a separate bill, which is supported by Exelon (see story here), SB0651 would also prohibit retail supplier service to certain low-income customers, except in municipal aggregations and under ICC-approved guaranteed savings programs
SB0651 provides that an alternative retail electric supplier shall not submit or execute a change in a customer's electric supplier if: (1) the customer has been verified by an approved agency within the preceding 12 months as eligible to receive financial assistance from either the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or the Percentage of Income Payment Plan; or (2) the customer has received financial assistance within the preceding 12 months from either the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or the Percentage of Income Payment Plan, unless (A) the customer's change in electric supplier is pursuant to a government aggregation program adopted in accordance with Section 1-92 of the Illinois Power Agency Act, or (B) the customer's change in electric supplier is pursuant to a Commission-approved savings guarantee plan
SB0651 provides that an ARES shall include on the single bills issued to residential customers the current utility supply charge that would apply to the customer for the billing period if the customer obtained supply from the utility, including all fixed or monthly supply charges and other charges, credits, or rates that are part of the electric supply price.
SB0651 provides that every electric utility that provides delivery and supply services shall include on each bill to residential customers who obtain supply from an alternative retail electric supplier the electric utility's total supply charge that would apply to the customer for the billing period if the customer obtained supply from the utility, including all fixed or monthly supply charges and other charges, credits, or rates that are part of the electric supply price.
SB0651 generally contains for the natural gas market provisions identical to those described above
Senate Bill 651 is called the Home Energy Affordability and Transparency (HEAT) Act
"Alternative retail electric and gas suppliers use misleading and deceptive marketing practices to prey upon Illinois’ most vulnerable consumers. 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," Raoul said. "I encourage members of the General Assembly to pass the HEAT Act to stop these predatory companies and protect Illinois families."
The AG's office said that, "Alternative retail energy suppliers entice customers with false claims of free electricity only to routinely trap customers in bad contracts that result in significantly higher utility rates. Over the last four years, consumers enrolled with alternative retail electric suppliers have paid over $600 million more in electricity costs than consumers who stayed with their public utility. Both alternative electric and gas suppliers engage in misleading marketing practices that take advantage of customer confusion and lack of information. Consumers in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been disproportionally harmed by suppliers’ deception and high costs."