CHICAGO, Nov. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nine of 10 offers marketed by alternative natural gas suppliers since 2003 have been money-losers, according to the Citizens Utility Board's Gas Market Monitor, a free online service that has tracked 9,000 offers over the history of Illinois' gas market.
The results serve as a consumer warning at an important time. As winter approaches, unregulated suppliers may step up their marketing, even though prices offered by the regulated utilities—Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, and Nicor Gas—are at their lowest point in nearly 15 years.
For more than a decade, Northern Illinois consumers have been able to choose a company other than the regulated utilities to supply their heating gas. Since 2003, CUB has been gathering supply prices offered by these alternative suppliers and feeding them into the Gas Market Monitor, at www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org, which makes an apples-to-apples comparison between the plans and utility prices. The service not only compares prices, but includes other charges that impact supply rates.
Through October, the Gas Market Monitor shows that of 9,046 plans analyzed since 2003, 94 percent have lost money compared with the prices offered by regulated utilities. While alternative suppliers don't share how many customers are on their plans, CUB estimated what the outcome would be for each plan if a customer stayed with it through the end of the contract term, based on typical usage of 1,325 therms a year. For the relatively few offers that saved, the benefits ranged from pennies to more than $200 over the life of the offer. However, the vast majority of offers were money-losers—by as much as thousands of dollars.
"Nobody has a crystal ball about the future of the market, but CUB's Gas Market Monitor indicates that searching for savings from an alternative supplier has been like looking for a needle in a haystack," CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen said. "The bottom line is that shopping in Northern Illinois' natural gas market is a gamble you're far too likely to lose."
The utilities predict their average winter prices will never reach above 40 cents per therm. In November, Peoples Gas is charging 33.32 cents per therm; North Shore Gas 37.58 cents per therm, and Nicor Gas 30 cents per therm. Those are the lowest November utility prices since 2001.
CUB is Illinois' leading nonprofit utility watchdog. Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, it has saved consumers more than $20 billion by helping to block rate hikes and secure refunds. For more information, call CUB's Consumer Hotline, 1-800-669-5556, or visit its award-winning website, www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
SOURCE Citizens Utility Board