Quick Tip: Know your rights with utility companies

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) recently released a free digital guide to help consumers know their rights.

Did you know you can complain to the Illinois Commerce Commission if you think your gas or electric company is taking advantage of you? Also, there are rules on when a utility can and cannot disconnect your service. Also, the guide provides information on special electric plans you may qualify for to save you on your bills.

The "CUB's Gas & Electric Guide: A handbook for residential utility customers in Illinois" was researched and written by CUB experts who tackle thousands of complaints and questions from Illinois utility customers each year.

Click here to order the guide

A utility can disconnect service in the following cases:
-If you fail to pay an entire past due bill or security deposit
-If you default on a deferred payment plan that the utility set up with you
-If you deny the utility access to your meter.

While regulations prohibit shut-offs after 4 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, technically the disconnection could be performed as long as the utility has personnel available to take a customer call or payment, and reconnect the same day.

In most cases the utility company is required to send a disconnection notice, but the utility is allowed to disconnect you without warning if:
-Your utility equipment has been tampered with
-There is no customer of record at your address
-There is a dangerous condition such as a gas leak.

It's a myth that the utility can never disconnect your heat in the winter, or your electricity in the summer. State regulations do limit disconnections for nonpayment, but the details are complex.

Residential accounts are safe from disconnection:

-When it is below 32 degrees or expected to fall below 32 degrees within the next 24-hour period, and disconnection would affect your heat.
-When it is above 95 degrees or expected to rise above 95 degrees within the next 24-hour period (electricity only).
-On any day preceding a weekend or holiday when temperatures are expected to meet the above criteria.
-If it's between Dec. 1 and March 31 AND if the utility accepted LIHEAP funds on the account after Sept. 1 of that heating season.
-If it's between December 1 and March 31 and you have an electric heat account (meaning your primary source of heat is electricity).
-If it's between December 1 and March 31 at the primary residence of a service member immediately before the service member is assigned to military service
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