Beware bad gas deals

With federal predictions that we could pay the lowest winter heating bills in more than a decade, be careful to avoid bad gas deals peddled by alternative suppliers.

For roughly 15 years, Northern Illinois consumers have been able to choose another company to supply their natural gas–other than the regulated utilities, North Shore Gas, Nicor Gas and Peoples Gas.

But earlier this winter CUB warned that the history of the gas market hasn’t been kind to consumers over the years. This winter that warning is amplified, given the plummeting utility prices.

Gas Utility January Price Last Year Prices were this Low
Nicor Gas 27 cents/therm 2002
Peoples Gas 26.95 cents/therm 2002
North Shore Gas 34.62 cents/therm 2002

So avoid these pitfalls if somebody knocks on your door and claims to have a deal that seems too good to be true.

Low introductory rates that shoot up after a short period: We’ve gotten plenty of complaints from people who said they were offered a great rate, only to see that rate skyrocket after a few months. 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.

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About Jim Chilsen

Jim is director of communications for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB)
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