Worst Natural Gas Deals in Illinois

worst gas dealsIn northern Illinois, consumers have the option of choosing their natural gas supplier.  But be careful!  CUB reviewed dozens of offers and uncovered prices that were double or nearly double the utility rates.

Watch CUB tell ABC 7’s Jason Knowles how to be a savvy shopper in the gas market.

The fact that utility rates change on a monthly basis makes it very difficult to determine what’s the best deal.  This is a March snapshot of the highest prices CUB found, as of March 18, 2015, compared with current utility rates:

Offers in Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas territory (compare with March rates of 37.29¢ for Peoples, and 44.18¢ for North Shore): 

1.) Ambit Energy: 76.25¢ per therm variable rate (77.92¢ variable rate for North Shore Gas)
2.) Santanna Energy Services: 70.9¢ per therm 1-year fixed rate, $7.99 monthly fee
3.) Just Energy: 57.9¢ per therm 2-year fixed rate*
4.) Just Energy: 56.9¢ per therm 5-year fixed rate*
5.) Direct Energy: 55.9¢ per therm 2-3-year fixed rate* (offer comes with a Nest Thermostat)

Offers in Nicor Gas territory (compare with Nicor’s March rate of 35¢ per therm): 

1.) Santanna Energy Services: 64.9¢ per therm 1-year fixed rate, $7.99 monthly fee
2.) Spark Energy: 59.9¢ per therm 1-2 year fixed rate
3.) Just Energy: 57.9¢ per therm 2-year fixed rate*
4.) Just Energy: 56.9¢ per therm 5-year fixed rate*
5.) Direct Energy: 55.9¢ per therm 2-3-year fixed rate* (offer comes with Nest Thermostat)

(Note: Prices as of 3/18/15.  A fixed rate stays constant for a certain period of time, while variable rates change on a monthly basis. Companies shown may offer lower prices in addition to the ones listed. Starred plans represent “green” options.)

Fortunately, CUB has some tips to protect yourself when shopping for a natural gas supplier.  Beware of these pitfalls:

Low introductory rates that shoot up after a short period: Ask if the rate is an intro rate, how long it lasts, and what the new rate will be.

Extra fees: Ask if there is a monthly fee, and if so, factor that into the per therm price.

Punishing exit fees: Ask if there is an exit fee if you want to leave a plan before the contract is up. Under the law, customers are allowed to leave a contract without paying an exit fee within 10 days after the date of the first bill.

High-pressure sales tactics: Beware of people at your door who say they’re from the “gas company.” Don’t give out your account number or gas bill to just anybody who asks for it. That person may be trying to sign you up for an offer without your permission.

Do you think gas competition is a good idea in Illinois?  Take CUB’s survey on natural gas deals here.  For more help, see CUB’s fact sheets on choosing a natural gas supplier (one for Nicor customers, and one for Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas customers).

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