Oak Park warns of 'fraudulent' energy providers

Village hall considers filing complaint with Illinois Commerce Commission if alleged deceptive continue

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Village of Oak Park is warning residents to steer clear of energy providers looking to wrangle in customers by using allegedly fraudulent business practices.

Last month, residents and small businesses were able to start getting their power from an alternative electricity company called Integrys Energy Services, which was hand-picked by the village. By bundling their bills together through "energy choice aggregation," customers started saving some 25 percent each month.

But village officials say that a couple of companies have been going door to door, or calling on the phone, trying to get people to switch to different providers that charge higher rates. Dublin, Ohio-based IGS Energy has allegedly been claiming to be the village's chosen company, according to K.C. Poulos, the sustainability manager for Oak Park.

Village officials have contacted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to keep her office abreast of the alleged fraud, and Oak Park may file a complaint with the Illinois Commerce Commission if it continues.

"What IGS is represented to have done here is really untoward, and according to the attorney general's office, is a material fraud," said Village President David Pope.

According to Poulos, IGS has been contacting customers, in person and by phone, asking them to switch. They don't have a license to solicit here, she said, and they've allegedly been representing themselves as Integrys.

Poulos said that IGS has agreed to stop knocking on doors, but made no such commitment as far as phone calls. The rate that the company is charging is about 1 cent more expensive than the 5.79 cents per kilowatt charge that Oak Parkers are paying through Integrys.

Larry Friedman, vice president of choice markets for IGS, questioned whether his company ever misrepresented itself. Representatives wear hats and shirts, clearly marked with the IGS logo, and they carefully review the details of the contract with each customer over the phone.

"Perhaps there are customers who, for whatever reason and despite best efforts, might walk away confused. I'm not sure," he said. "We share some commonality of letters. Maybe there are a few customers who are confused by that, but I have no way of knowing, frankly. I can assure you that we take every precaution to identify our company."

Friedman said there is no cancelation fee if someone decides to ditch IGS. As for the rate, he said that, when selling to customers, the company compares its price to that of Exelon, which supplies electricity to ComEd, rather than the lower rate that's offered by Integrys.

About 350 people have opted out of the energy aggregation program through the village, which Poulos called "unusually high," and they suspect that they were signing with the IGS and other aggressive energy companies. Those who opted out after Jan. 1 are charged a $50 fee, but Poulos suspected that Integrys won't collect that charge if customers were duped into switching.

"This is not the fault of the consumer, whatsoever, nor should they be penalized for fraudulent actions by a company, so we want to fix this as quickly as possible," Poulos said.

Reader Comments

25 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Derek from Tallamadge   

Posted: August 5th, 2014 4:59 PM

I work for IGS and this is all true, we only beat DEO for one month since 2011.

ARG from Chicago  

Posted: May 19th, 2013 11:43 AM

My electric bill went up $10/month because of a switch to Integrys. There was never full disclosure about the cost of Integrys compared to Comed. I don't like companies that don't give full disclosure and I would stay with comed over these people!

S.F. Carrillo from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 9:17 PM

No one ever came to my house. No one ever called me. However, someone was able to fraudulently authorize a change in energy providers. Needless to say, Integrys refuses to waive the $50.00 early termination fee. I have since re-instated with integrys, but this has been the worst waste of time. I still have to contact ComEd and get to the bottom of how my account was hacked. What is the Village of Oak Park waiting for? This needs to be reported to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Chuck from Chicago  

Posted: February 10th, 2013 8:34 PM

There is a much better choice, better for the environment using local Illinois wind power, providing Illinois renewable energy jobs, cutting greenhouse gasses and air pollution: also a better rate of 5.29 cents/kwh 6 month rather than 12 month Integrys term http://www.viridian.com/ecochuck/default.aspx

John from Chicago  

Posted: February 5th, 2013 6:46 PM

There may be other Energy company providers but they are not all the same and also provide jobs to a lot of people in Chicago. Please do your research on each company before jumping to conclusions. Economy is rough these days so these companies providing jobs is a good thing and helps people to save money. Integry is a good company but does not provide the amount job opportunities as other energy companies. Now Integry is working directly with Chicago/Suburbs and cutting out the jobs

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: February 7th, 2012 11:03 AM

The 25% reduction applies only to the portion of your bill which relates to the kilowatt charge. Please check the cost per kilowatt between December and January or February to confirm your savings. In all communications, it was noted the only difference consumers will see will be a lower rate on the supply charge line item on their bills. For more information on Oak Park's electricity aggregation program, e-mail sustainability@oak-park.us

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 11:54 PM

There is paranoia involved. I am just not certain whether the village govt is suffering it or is attempting to spread it in the village to support their energy source choice.

Bell = Coughlin=Enuf  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 11:31 PM

R u talking out of both sides of your mouth again?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 9:13 PM

Anne, I don't think anyone answered your question about NAPower. The Citizen Utility Board would likely have some information about company or you might do a search and see if they are legit. We shouldn't be surprised about cons and hustlers trying to take advantage of people who are still learning about alternative energy suppliers. I suspect those who are going door to door are in violation of the Village policy regarding solicitors. Good to learn that VOP is taking this possible scam seriously and is prepared to involved law enforcement. It's also a good policy to ignore all telephone sale pitches. If the calls continue, you can file a report online with the FCC.

Silly  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 6:44 PM

I am not defending the Village or anyone here. I just dont see any logic in you criticizing anyone who saves you anything? Saving money is a good thing. :-)

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 6:35 PM

The village misled the public by claiming 25% savings, which only applies when the village compares their aggregation rate ($0.0576) to the current ComEd rate ($0.07733). The actual savings to the total electric bill is about 10%. The fact the village contacted the IL State Attorney re. fraudulent claims by others is akin to calling the kettle black. Residents could have achieved the same savings via alternative electric suppliers listed at http://pluginillinois.org/

HA HA  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 4:34 PM

Thanking the vma for proving themselves wrong again and pushing people to convert based on 25% savings that does not turn out just like all their promise. didn't ask for resignation asked that they be voted out. go crawl back in your hole now

Silly  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 4:01 PM

Blame the VMA for saving you $$$. Ask for resignations? You funny.

HA HA  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 3:35 PM

@May, the HA HA was not aimed at you, personally.

May  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 3:18 PM

Stop your own complaining, as you hide behind your keyboard, Q. At least I informed the public. You are of no help.

May  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 3:15 PM

Wow, was that really necessary, HA HA, as you hide behind the keyboard? That attitude will only return to you - karmic law.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 3:14 PM

May, stop your complaining, you didn't really believe what Pope and Barwin promised, did you. If you don't like the false promises made by Pope and Barwin, then ask for their resignation.

HA HA  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 3:02 PM

that is what you get for trusting the VMA Board of trustees...time to vote them all out....or as their terms come to an end.

May  

Posted: February 6th, 2012 2:46 PM

We just received our new electric bill with Integrys and instead of a 25% promised decrease, it was 10%. We reviewed every line/charge on this bill and the previous three bills. False promises given to the public.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2012 11:59 AM

ComEd supplies electricity at a rate based on costs incurred per the ICC-approved procurement plan. Supposedly, ComEd doesn't profit from supplying electricity, passing through costs to its customers. If 1/3 of customers switch to an alternative supplier by end of 2012, state utility regulators may declare the residential market officially competitive, and ComEd customers could be subject to spot-market electricity prices rather than their current negotiated, firm, annual price.

mv113 from op  

Posted: February 5th, 2012 10:36 AM

ComEd does not care who you purchase power from. They are in the business of delivering the electricity and will still be doing so under the aggregation plan. ComEd's charge is a pass through. Whatever they pay that month is what you pay that month. They make no profit on the cost of the electricity, just the delivery.So TJ learn what you are talking about before you comment.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2012 8:21 AM

Another example of misplaced VOP indignation. For its own electric aggregation plan, VOP chose the opt-out option, which captures the entire residential and small commercial population (unless one pro-actively opt-outs), knowing most ComEd customers will be switched to Integrys w/o their knowledge. In the plan, VOP tried to sneak in an undisclosed $400K fee. IL State Attorney is already familiar with OP, as they were recently reprimanded for violating the Open Meetings Act.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2012 7:53 AM

The "fraudulent" energy provider is called ComEd.

Leslie  

Posted: February 4th, 2012 1:04 AM

I never use lights in my house. Only in my back part of the house and upstairs when I'm on the PC.

anne from Oak Park  

Posted: February 3rd, 2012 7:30 PM

Does anyone know anything about NAPower? Someone is trying to solicit people on my block to join. It does not sound kosher to me but wanted others opinions.

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