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Madigan sues Sperian for deceptive business practices, fraud

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan | Sun-Times file photo

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan claims an alternative electric supplier misled customers to lure them into expensive contracts.

Madigan filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court against Sperian Energy Corp., alleging its representatives used “aggressive and deceptive sales tactics” to enroll customers in ComEd territory, according to the attorney general’s office.

The three-count suit accuses Sperian of violating Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, as well as the Telephone Solicitations Act.

The suit claims Sperian sales agents failed to disclose information such as the length or price of contracts, or the existence of a new monthly fee. In some instances, representatives gave customers the false impression that they were signing up for a discounted rate through ComEd, or that they would save money through a nonexistent energy choice program, the suit claims.

They also failed to let customers know that the fixed rates they were signing up for would only apply for limited time periods, after which they would be switched to a more expensive month-to-month variable rate plan, according to the suit.

“Sperian’s deception is an egregious example of an alternative electric supplier duping customers into believing they will save money when instead they needlessly pay more,” Madigan said in the statement. “Sperian needs to be held accountable for violating the law and misleading people about the prices it charged for electricity.”

The attorney general’s office claims Sperian customers have paid $12 million more in rates and fees since 2012 than they would have with a regulated utility.

The suit is asking the court to revoke Sperian’s license to operate as an alternative retail electric supplier in Illinois, and order it to pay damages.

Sperian CEO Paul Keene said he’s “disappointed” Madigan is filing the lawsuit related to activities that “took place several years ago.”

Keene said he doesn’t comment on litigation, but that Sperian takes customer satisfaction and sales compliance “very seriously.”

“We received a three-star rating on the latest Illinois Commerce Commission ‘Plug In Illinois’ website, which is the average rating for retail electric suppliers in the state,” Keene said. “We are not proud of being average on this metric, and know we can, and will, do better.”