July 5, 2018 – If someone calls or knocks on your door promising a better deal on electricity, proceed with caution, officials warn, since you could be misled into switching to a supplier that ultimately will cost more and charge unexpected fees should you later try to switch back.
The scam is not that sophisticated. Companies hire salespeople to call and go door-to-door offering to save you money on your electricity bill. They may ask for your account number or to see your bill so they can point out all the ways they can help you save.
Of course, they’re probably not trying to help you save. These companies likely are selling a low introductory rate that will go up a few months later. Or they may just be trying to get your account number so they can switch you to a different provider without your permission.
Every year since 2011, the Village has bundled residential and small business electric accounts and sought competitive bids from electricity suppliers. The state law that gave the Village this authority also opened the door to companies that market their programs directly to consumers.
While some of the companies may be approved by the state, high-pressure salespeople often are accused of misleading consumers about the costs and risks of signing up.
ComEd, which owns the wires and poles, continues to distribute the power and is responsible for outages and billing, regardless of the power supplier. These costs – power generation and distribution – actually appear as separate line items on your bill.
Enrollment for Oak Park’s municipal electricity aggregation program typically opens in the fall and all eligible customers are enrolled automatically unless they have opted out previously through a very specific process within a set time period.
According to some residents, door-to-door and telephone solicitors may claim erroneously that the Village electricity aggregation program’s enrollment period is open and tell consumers they have to make a choice immediately or risk losing their electricity service.
Representatives from the Village or the supplier selected for the municipal aggregation program never solicit door-to-door or by telephone. Customers eligible to participate in the program receive an official notice in the mail of the new enrollment period. Those already enrolled can disregard the notice unless they wish to opt out and customers not enrolled in the program are invited to join.
Regardless of any action or lack of action by the customer, electricity service is not affected. ComEd also seeks bids annually for a default supplier. Any customer that opts out of the Village program, but does not pick another state-approved supplier, is billed for electricity by ComEd’s vendor.
ComEd, like the Village, does not go door-to-door or call to seek customers for its default electricity supplier.
Of course, not every electricity provider seeking customers is a scammer. In fact, consumers have the option of choosing from scores of suppliers approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
But choosing a third-party supplier other than the Village aggregation partner requires careful consideration of the options and reading all of the fine print – including comparing fees for termination. More information on providers is posted online at www.pluginillinois.org.
As in any financial transaction or service contract, officials urge consumers to proceed with caution and common sense. But following these basic guidelines may help you avoid the scammers:
- Never share your account number in person or over the telephone
- Never allow a solicitor to see your bill
- Never make a payment to a door-to-door solicitor or over the telephone
- Never share your credit card number, social security number or other personal information
Commercial door-to-door solicitors are required to be licensed by the Village Clerk to operate in Oak Park. Residents who feel threatened by an aggressive solicitor are urged to call 911.
Anyone with concerns about the status of an electricity account can call ComEd at 1.800.334.7661. You will need to provide your account number for this service.
For more information on the Village’s electricity aggregation program, call 708.358.5770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.