Citizen’s Utility Board
Gas, electricity, and telecommunications are all utilities that we need to survive and thrive either through communication, warmth, cooking, lighting, and many more. Due to the public necessity of these utilities, government holds regulations over the companies who provide these services so that the companies do not take advantage of their good as a necessity.
Established in 1983 by the Illinois General Assembly to protect the state’s utility customers, Citizen’s Utility Board (CUB) has achieved outstanding success including lower rates and better service from Illinois’ investor-owned electric, gas, and telephone companies.
With 20-25 employees now on hand, “over the last 26 years, CUB has saved consumers more than $10 billion by blocking rate hikes and winning consumer refunds” reads its award-winning website at www.citizensutilityboard.org.
One of its most recent achievements unveiled Illinois utilities trying to tack on customers a total of $33 million in legal fees spent during the average 11-month rate-hike cases. While utilities spend more than CUB’s annual budget on one case alone, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) who overseas these cases has acknowledged the unfair burden of legal fees. The ICC is now required to approve the legal fees as “just” and reasonable.”
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of CUB is their technological advancements in the area of consumer protection. In 2008, CUB became the first consumer group to launch an online cell-phone tool called the Cellphone Saver. This tool utilizes online billing to show people how to save an average of $300 per year.
Not only does CUB seek to lower utility rates, they also desire to educate consumers about lower energy usage. This past month, CUB began CUB Energy Saver, the first online service in the nation to connect to utility bills online and give rewards based on how much energy you conserve. These rewards are redeemable from local, national, and online retailers. “People are hungry for ways to save” says Director of Communications Jim Chilsen. The CUB Energy Saver “provides a tool to cut electricity bills—literally.”
Outside of the computer, CUB puts a precedent on direct, personal services for the consumers. Last year, the organization set a record of 90 phone bill clinics, up nearly 40 from last year, to personally assist consumers with the best phone savings for them. The biggest individual savings was $138.50 less paid per month.