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Illinois governor weighing new rules for alternative energy suppliers

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Illinois governor weighing new rules for alternative energy suppliers

A bill that would place tougher regulations on alternative retail energy suppliers in Illinois is on its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Known as the Home Energy Affordability and Transparency, or HEAT, Act, Senate Bill 651 is aimed at protecting consumers who choose to get their electricity or gas supply from a provider other than a utility such as Ameren Illinois Co., Commonwealth Edison Co. or Peoples Gas Light and Coke Co.

The Illinois Senate first approved the bill May 1, and the state House of Representatives voted 116-0 on May 30 to approve an amended version of the bill. The Senate voted 59-0 on May 31 to concur with the House change, sending it to Pritzker for approval. The governor is reviewing the bill, a spokesperson said.

If signed by Pritzker, the bill would prevent alternative suppliers from switching a renewing contract from a fixed to a variable rate without first getting the customer's approval in writing.

The bill also would end termination fees on supply contracts for residential and small-business customers and protect Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds from supplier overcharges. It would require an electric or gas utility's comparison price to be included on all alternative supplier marketing materials and bills and be disclosed during telephone or door-to-door solicitations.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul lobbied for the bill, arguing that some alternative retail energy suppliers lure customers with false savings claims and other inducements only to trap them in bad contracts that result in significantly higher rates.

Raoul said in a May 30 statement that Illinois consumers who signed up with alternative retail electric suppliers have paid over $600 million more during the last four years than those who stayed with their public utility.

Consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board also supports the legislation. In a statement, Citizens Utility Board Executive Director David Kolata called the bill a victory for consumers.

"The new law will stop bad actors from taking advantage of Illinois consumers and help give people the information they need to avoid bad deals," Kolata said May 31.