Madigan: Get smart about Smart Meters
Attorney General urges
consumers to understand Smart Meter Data, its benefits
and potential pitfalls
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[March 31, 2016]
- Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a consumer alert urging
Illinois residents to do their homework on smart meters – how they work,
what type of data they collect, how the data can be used and if you
authorize it, who can access it. Smart meters may help households lower
electricity bills if the data is monitored and used properly, but
Madigan warned that special packages that utility companies market don’t
always result in savings.
Madigan urged consumers to make sure they understand and monitor
their smart meter data before sharing it with any third parties or
signing up for new electricity plans. Consumers should also be aware
that sharing smart meter data may open them up to a deluge of
advertising and special offers from alternative electricity
suppliers. Alternative electricity suppliers – companies that sell
electricity to ComEd and Ameren customers – have begun efforts to
persuade consumers to share this data with them. If a consumer
agrees to share their smart meter data, the alternative supplier
will likely use it to send frequent advertising and special offers
for programs that may not actually save consumers money.
“Smart meters are new and many people are unaccustomed to using
them,” Madigan said. “Learning how to read and monitor the data to
change your energy usage habits is the only sure way to lower
electricity bills. Providing smart meter data to an alternative
electricity supplier will not guarantee savings, but it will expose
you to relentless advertising and marketing pitches.”
Smart meters are being installed at homes across Illinois to
modernize how the state’s electricity utilities, including ComEd and
Ameren, measure electricity usage. These meters digitally record
information that may help consumers better understand their energy
usage habits. In turn, the utility companies can use the data to
offer special pricing programs to those customers who are able to
closely monitor their usage and change their energy habits.
Madigan offers a few important points about smart meters:
- A “smart meter” is a wireless device that digitally records how
much electricity you use in short intervals, providing a precise
look at your energy usage habits.
- Having a smart meter does not – on its own – lower your
electricity usage or lower your electricity bill.
- The data provided by a smart meter can only lower your
electricity costs if you first learn how to read the data, then take
the time to monitor your electricity usage and ultimately change
your energy usage habits.
- ComEd and Ameren are not allowed to share your smart meter data
with alternative electricity suppliers or other third parties
unless you sign an authorization allowing them to do so.
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- If you have a smart meter, an alternative electricity
supplier may contact you by phone, by mail, or in person to
persuade you to sign an authorization form and share your
smart meter data for the previous two years, and for the next
- Beware that signing an authorization to provide smart
meter data may lead to solicitations from alternative
electricity suppliers about programs that may or may not
reduce your electricity bill.
- It is entirely up to you whether you share any smart
meter data with any third party.
- If you decide to share your smart meter data, an
alternative electricity supplier will have access to it
until your service ends or for six months after you sign the
authorization, whichever occurs later.
If you are thinking of sharing smart meter data with an
alternative electricity supplier, consider the following:
- Smart meter data can reveal details about your
life. Spikes in electricity use may indicate when you
are home, while low use may indicate you are not home.
- Only sign an authorization form if you are
comfortable sharing your name, account number, and
electricity data. Be sure you understand how to
terminate your authorization if you change your mind.
- You may revoke your authorization at any time.
For more information on smart meters and other public
utility matters, please visit Attorney General Madigan’s
Public Utilities Resources page at
consumers/public_utilities.html or call
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau:
[Office of the Attorney General, Lisa