The Illinois Commerce Commission wants low-income customers struggling to afford their utility bills to be aware of changes in state law that offer relief from deposit and late payment fees, and clarifies who is eligible for these new consumer protection benefits.
The Illinois General Assembly added provisions to the Public Utilities Act in the recent Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that prohibit electric utilities from charging late-payment fees or charges to low income customers and prohibits low income customers from having to pay a deposit to have service connected, reconnected or to continue to receive service. Gas and electric utilities must also refund deposits to low-income customers who have paid them.
The law defines a low-income customer as (i) a member of a household at or below 80% of the community or county median household income; (ii) a member of a household at or below 150% of the federal poverty level; (iii) a person who is eligible for the Illinois Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); (iv) a person who is eligible to participate in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP or PIP Plan); or (v) a person who is eligible to receive Lifeline telephone service.
If you qualify and have been charged a late-payment fee on a recent electric bill, you should contact your electric utility first to find out whether the fee can be removed off your bill. Similarly, low-income customers who have been charged a deposit by their electric or natural gas utility to have service connected, reconnected or to continue to receive service should contact the utility first to find out whether the deposit can be refunded.
The ICC’s Consumer Services Division has English and Spanish speaking counselors available to help customers needing further assistance between 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday by calling 1-800-524-0795. More information can be found at the ICC utility assistance webpage.