ACM: Econic must stick to maximum tariffs for cold district heating, and must be clearer about dispute settlement options
Heat supplier Econic charged too high tariffs for the supply of cold (cold district heating) to customers that took out supply contracts after January 1, 2020. On that day, maximum tariffs for cold district heating went into effect, and Econic has exceeded those maximum tariffs. In addition, communications about the fact that that Econic is a member of the Dutch Foundation for Consumer Complaints Boards (in Dutch: De Geschillencommissie) were so unclear that customers did not know where they could turn to for filing disputes. Econic has thus violated the Dutch Heat Act on those two counts. That is why the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a binding instruction on Econic.
Residents of a housing complex in the western Dutch city of Alkmaar had filed a request for enforcement against Econic with ACM. One of their complaints was about Econic charging more than the maximum tariff for cold district heating. Many of the complainants had taken out a supply contract before January 1, 2020. In those cases, Econic did not have to comply with the maximum tariff because of the transitional provisions included in the Dutch Heat Act.
The residents had also asked ACM to perform a return assessment in order to determine whether Econic earned an excessive return after raising the heat tariff. The return assessment is a new statutory power granted to ACM. ACM is currently unable to perform the return assessment because the necessary preparations have not yet been completed. In July 2022, ACM published the policy rule regarding the return assessment for heat on its website for consultation, and expects to finalize the policy rule by the end of the year.