Mystery voicemails about ComEd bills lead to another company's urgent sales pitch

An ABC 7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- One man contacted the ABC 7 I-Team after he got a string of what he called "alarming messages." He was concerned something was wrong with his electric bill. But the ABC 7 I-Team I-Team followed the trail to another company all together.

"Hi, my name is Melinda calling in regards to your ComEd electric account it is important that you reach me as soon as possible," the voicemail said.

When St. Charles entrepreneur Ron Haluczak received several of those messages he was alarmed and confused.

"I kept getting these voicemails that I found to be threatening to the point where I thought I needed to check to make sure I paid my bill because it sounded like there was a problem with my account," Haluczak said.

Right away Haluczak knew something was wrong because his electric provider is not ComEd, it's the city of St. Charles.

"Please make sure to have a copy of your ComEd bill when you call back," the voicemail said.

"I'm calling in regards to the ComEd electric account. It is very important you return my call," another said.

"They try to get you to call them under false pretenses and that's just wrong all day long," Haluczak said.

The ABC 7 I-Team called the mystery number back. First, they got an answering service, then a quick call back.

The caller was from Realgy Energy, not ComEd as the voicemail claimed.

Realgy Energy services is a legitimate alternative electric provider. In northern Illinois, consumers have a choice to use ComEd or switch to an alternative supplier when looking for lower rates. While these suppliers can legally pitch you to switch your service, these unidentified voicemails are not following the approved script according to Realgy's own president.

In a statement sent to the I-Team he said Realgy's sales calls and voicemails, "must identify Realgy and that (they are) calling about the ComEd customer choice program."

"It certainly seems a very aggressive approach that we now know is a marketing call and they fail to identify who is calling or the purpose of the call," Fidel Marquez, Jr., senior vice president of ComEd, said.

Marquez said the messages are in no way affiliated with, or sponsored by ComEd. But when the I-Team got a callback a Realgy representative said it was "ComEd sponsored."

Realgy said ComEd bills are legally required to verify a customer's account and potential savings. Realgy also said it has safeguards in the enrollment process and "feel it is nearly impossible to enroll a customer without their knowledge."

"I think they need to be very transparent, very clear in their calls of what is the purpose for their call and not trying to get them scared," Marquez said.

"We believe these particular messages to be misleading and our concern is that they could deceive our customers into believing there is an association with ComEd," ComEd said.

Realgy said it has addressed the issue with its sales group, telling them they must identify themselves or it "can be misleading for the customer."

"It's a scare tactic that should not be allowed to continue," Haluczak said.

The Illinois Commerce Commission and the attorney general's office told the I-Team that they're also looking into the voicemails.

ComEd said you should never provide a social security number, or a ComEd account number to anyone claiming to be from ComEd.

If you want to switch to an alternative supplier you should research the company and ask if they have variable rates which could go up and down with the market.

For more information for those considering switching to an alternative supplies, visit the Illinois Attorney General's website.
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