Over 30 years of consumer advocacy, CUB has heard a lot of misinformation about utility service–yep, some real doozies! As winter approaches, here’s our list of the top 5 myths about your gas bill.
Myth No. 1: There’s nothing you can do to cut your energy bills. CUB’s free online tool, CUB Energy Saver, has been showing consumers how to cut their utility bills by $100 a year. It’s filled with no- and low-cost tips, easy things you can do to save money. Don’t forget that CUB just released a guide outlining up to $37 million in potential savings through efficiency programs offered by the utilities.
Myth No. 2: The gas utility CANNOT turn off your service in the winter. Don’t assume you’re protected from a shut-off in the winter. A gas utility may impose its own moratorium on winter shut-offs, but a company can stop service as long as the temperature is expected to be above 32 degrees for the next 24 hours. Of course, there are rights that a gas utility must extend to you before disconnecting service. Call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, 1-800-669-5556, for details.
Myth No. 3: The gas company always reads your meter. Although CUB has spent years trying to get the gas utilities to read meters more often, the companies can delay reading your meter for months, and instead just estimate usage. One of the most frequent complaints CUB gets is from bewildered consumers slammed with huge make-up bills after the gas company spent months underestimating usage. If you get two estimated readings in a row, call the utility to ask why it’s not reading your meter. Consider doing your own meter readings.
Myth No. 4: An alternative gas company can protect you from utility rate hikes. An alternative gas company cannot shield you from utility rate hikes. The regulated utility still charges you to deliver that gas to your home, and those “delivery rates” are subject to the increases that CUB fights all the time. (Note: CUB has found that most plans from alternative suppliers have been money-losers, to date. See CUB’s guides to alternative suppliers (for Nicor customers and Peoples/North Shore customers).
Myth No. 5: Your utility profits off of high gas prices. Don’t get CUB wrong here, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Nicor and Ameren are profiting, but under law, the utilities aren’t supposed to make money off the actual supply of gas. They’re supposed to pass the cost of gas on to consumers, with no markup. The utilities make their profits on “delivery rates” on gas bills, and CUB fights them when they try to raise those rates. So who’s profiting off the actual gas? The producers and marketers that sell gas to the utilities have been laughing all the way to the bank. That’s why we’ve called for stronger oversight of the wholesale gas market.
See CUB’s website for a full list of heating bill myths.