Canvassing campus for crossover clients

By Anthony Antoine |

Published 02/19 2014 10:40AM

Updated 02/19 2014 10:45AM

CHAMPAIGN -- Small energy companies are asking UI students to hand over personal information. It's making them uncomfortable. Anyone in Champaign can pick their electric company. The city chose Integrys instead of Ameren to save money, but now other companies are doing the hard sell. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine speaks with students who say they're being pressured to switch.

The city can't do anything about it. Because of deregulation, the city was able to shop around for a better deal, but that also allowed smaller businesses to go door-to-door trying to get you to switch.

"Doing electric aggregation is kind of like buying in bulk."

The idea is simple. You buy more, you save more. And the City of Champaign saved over $1 million by making Integrys its electrical supplier.

"Since that time, it's been lots of other providers that have entered the playing field."

And they don't seem to be playing fair. Just ask Jennie Michalik.

"It was a guy with a clipboard, a logo on his vest saying, 'Do you want me to switch your energy bill.'"

He represented Clearview Energy.

"I was just like, 'No, no thank you' and he told me it would be really easy if I just gave him my electric bill."

It didn't seem right, so the junior decided not to. Her realtor, Roland Realty, had several residents complaining about the solicitation.

They sent out an email, but it goes even further. Across the internet, students share horror stories of aggressive and misleading tactics to get them to switch.

"We would caution people. If someone is coming to your door or calling you over the phone and asking for that account information, it's OK to not give that to them. Those people are not acting on behalf of the city."

But, the city's hands are tied. You're free to switch, but you're encouraged to make an educated decision. Calling public works should be your first step.

"They can help you calculate whether you're getting a good deal now, whether you'll be getting a better deal by switching. They can help you review those statements to see if there is any penalty for switching."

A penalty you may be shocked to see if your bill is significantly higher.

"If any kind of business is trying to get students involved, they should really go about it in a more constructive way. Coming door-to-door was a little shady."

The Better Business Bureau shows Clearview and three other small companies all had "A" ratings. But, online reviews are not positive.

Finding out whether you'll save money may be different for each person. Take the information, review it and make the decision on your own time, not on impulse.

It all started in April 2012, with electric aggregation, when the city put out a bid for suppliers. On May 22, 2012, it accepted a bid from Integrys.

Even though the city switched suppliers, your bills still come form Ameren. The contract with Integrys is up in June 2014. At that time, the city will issue a request for new proposals.

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