I-Team investigates: 'Selfie video' sales?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois Commerce Commission is reviewing several potential new rules about sales pitches for alternative electric plans, including recordings at your own door.

The ICC would put a magnifying glass on the fine print of alternative electric plans. And the I-Team found that there's one controversial idea to have salespeople videotape themselves.

"I was under the impression that once I got Palmco I didn't have to worry about no high electrical bills," said Ariel Yehudah, South Side resident.

Yehudah says he didn't realize his unregulated electric plan would eventually change form a fixed rate to a higher, variable rate. He signed up, he said. when someone came to his door.

"They're like flies. They're all over the place," Yehudah said. "Knocking on everyone's doors, they come in a gang. And they got that pitch going. I should have read the small print."

Palmco confirmed he cancelled his contract in October and added that it provided a courtesy credit to reduce his total bill.

But what if the sales pitch he received was recorded on video? That suggestion was submitted to the state by the Citizens Utility Board.

"We are recommending that alternative suppliers be required to videotape their door-to-door pitches. We think there would be no better way to combat misleading marketing and fraudulent marketing than to have those pitches on videotape," said Jim Chilsen, director of communications at Citizens Utility Board.

That idea is in a larger Illinois Commerce Commission proposal to protect consumers. CUB wants salespeople to video record their own pitches as they point their phones at themselves, or potentially wear a camera.

But the industry association representing alternative suppliers is against the idea saying, "...mandating that a sales agent wear a camera on one's head or body would make most customers uncomfortable and is unnecessary..."

"And our answer to them is, what are you worried about? If you're truthful in your door-to-door pitches, there should be nothing you're afraid of in this proposal," Chilsen said.

The ICC says other potential rules would require alternative suppliers to better inform customers about variable rates and early terminations fees in marketing materials and contracts, essentially turning the fine print into a headline.

"It seems there's a disconnect in the fine print," said Danisha Hall, bureau chief of external affairs, Illinois Commerce Commission. "Not an explanation of what it entails or it's not visible to consumer... we want people to be able to see exactly what they're getting into."

The proposal also includes a requirement of companies to record audio of over-the-phone sales pitches.

The ICC will be reviewing these potential new rules in coming weeks, but it could be several months before they are approved or rejected by a special legislative committee.
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