Annette Evans, consumer rights associate at CUB, recently received a call from a consumer whose gas bill had mysteriously skyrocketed to nearly $600. After some sleuthing, Annette discovered the culprit: without her knowledge, the consumer had been signed up with Nicor Advanced Energy— an unregulated sister company of the utility that markets in Northern Illinois. The consumer had not realized that Nicor Gas, the regulated utility, was no longer supplying her gas.
She isn’t alone, unfortunately.
In our survey last week, 44.6 percent of respondents didn’t realize the two companies were different.
As one respondent put it, “What the heck?”
CUB has argued for years that the similar names and logos of Nicor Advanced Energy and Nicor Gas create confusion for customers. Because of this, we issued a consumer alert last week warning people to read their gas bill carefully and make sure they know which company is supplying their gas. After all, some Nicor Advanced Energy customers reported rates spiking to $1.77 per therm this winter!
Other respondents voiced some important questions:
1.) How do I know if I am enrolled in Nicor Advanced Energy?
You can look in two places on your bill. A small box titled “A Message for You” will tell you if an alternate supplier is providing your gas. Additionally, you can see in the section called “Total—Additional Products and Services” that the supply of gas is going to an alternate supplier (see photo below).
2.) What do I do if I am a Nicor Advanced Energy customer and I want to return to Nicor Gas?
Start by calling Nicor Advanced Energy, at 1-866-799-2674. If you are unhappy with your interaction with the company, you can always file a complaint with CUB to see if you can get a refund, or, at the very least, if you can get out of the offer without having to pay the $50 exit fee.
The consumer was so grateful to Annette for alerting her about Nicor Advanced Energy she sent in a donation to CUB. “Thank you so much for your help this morning with my gas bill,” she wrote to Annette. “Your work is much appreciated.”