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ACM: almost all suppliers offer contracts with prices below the price cap

The Monitor on the consumer energy market (in Dutch) of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) shows that almost all suppliers of natural gas and/or electricity offer new customers contracts with prices below the price cap. Despite this extensive selection of economical contracts, over half of all households still have energy contracts with prices above the price cap.

Figures of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), which implements the subsidy scheme of the price cap, reveal that households pay prices above the price cap for 49 percent of all electricity connections and for 59 percent of the natural-gas connections. The monitor also shows that, each month in 2023, fewer people switch suppliers. The difference between the contracted price and the maximum price of the price cap (€ 1.45 for up to 1,200 cubic meters of natural gas and € 0.40 for up to 2,900 kWh of electricity) is given as a subsidy to energy suppliers. The subsidy scheme will end on December 31, 2023. From that date, all consumers will thus once again have to pay the prices in their energy contracts. This means that households that have not switched to contracts with prices below the price cap before that date will thus once again have to start paying the higher prices above the price cap. Consumers that currently consume more natural gas and/or electricity than the maximum volume thresholds of the price cap will be able to benefit immediately from switching to a more economical contract.

Households that want to be sure they do not need to pay more than the prices of the price cap after December 31 can opt for a fixed contract of at least one year with prices below the price cap. With the new rules that went into effect on June 1, 2023, fixed contracts are truly fixed contracts. If consumers do wish to terminate a fixed contract early, they will have to pay their supplier a fee. With variable contracts, rates can be adjusted after at least 30 days, and with dynamic contracts, the rates can vary per day or even by the hour. With these types of contracts, the prices are not guaranteed for households. Consumers will thus need to consider very carefully what contract meets their needs best. ACM also advises consumers to review the offers of suppliers thoroughly, and to compare these with other offers. Unsolicited offers (for example ones that are offered over the phone) are, in many situations, not the best offer. For all tips and suggestions, visit ACM’s consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer.

Results of intensified oversight of suppliers

All energy suppliers that supply natural gas and/or electricity to consumers and other small-scale users must have a supply license from ACM. In order to reduce the likelihood of bankruptcies, ACM tightened the rules in October 2022. ACM has since started checking regularly whether the financial positions, purchasing strategies, and business plans of all suppliers comply with these rules. In addition, energy suppliers must also show that they are prepared for price fluctuations on the energy market, for a cold winter period, or for non-payment by customers. Energy suppliers must also have a risk manager.

There are currently 59 suppliers with a license. ACM’s checks have revealed that, in general, compliance with the tightened rules is high, but there are still suppliers that need to take additional steps in order to fully comply with the new rules. That is why ACM is conducting additional checks at 6 suppliers in order to be sure that this will happen. At one supplier, ACM is currently conducting an in-depth investigation into its tariffs, customer acquisition, invoicing, and financial robustness. As part of that investigation, ACM on June 12 paid this supplier a visit. RVO is also conducting an investigation of its own into this supplier, and recently suspended the price-cap-related subsidy.

Four other energy suppliers (DVEP, Qwint, TotalEnergies, and Shell) have informed ACM of their plans to leave the consumer market for natural gas and/or electricity. These companies will inform their own customers of their plans. ACM will keep a close watch on these suppliers to see whether they comply with the rules, and to make sure that customers will not be left without a supplier. These four companies can make arrangements with other suppliers regarding the continuation of supply to these customers under the same conditions. Alternatively, they can ask their customers to switch suppliers themselves. In that context, it is allowed to offer customers a bonus or a rebate in order make switching more appealing, but they cannot force customers to switch. More information can be found on ACM’s consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer.