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New Law Shields Illinois Gas Consumers from Misleading Suppliers

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed into law new measures aimed at protecting consumers from misleading sales pitches and excessively high exit fees of marketers that provide alternative natural gas service in the state.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) was the catalyst for the consumer protection measures, which tighten the marketing, managerial and certification requirements for gas suppliers that offer alternative gas service in competition with regulated utilities.

The law allows residential and small customers who opt to buy natural gas from an alternative gas supplier to rescind an agreement without penalty within 10 business days after activation by notifying their utility or the alternative supplier; limits early exit fees to $50, and incorporates new verification procedures to confirm a customer's choice of supplier and protect consumers from unauthorized switching or "slamming."

The new law also:

As a condition of certification by the ICC, alternative gas suppliers must disclose whether they have been denied a license in any other state; whether their license has been suspended or revoked in another state; whether they are subject to lawsuits or formal complaints with a regulatory agency in another state and any material change to their business that would adversely affect their ability to provide service to customers, according to the ICC.

ICC Chairman Charles Box said the new law beefs up the agency's ability to protect consumers from misleading or illegal marketing of natural gas service, and ensures greater enforcement authority to deal with problems if they occur.

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