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ACM fines Budget Thuis for misleading telemarketing calls involving energy contracts

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine of 1.8 million euros on Budget Thuis B.V. for misleading telemarketing practices involving energy contracts. Budget Thuis previously operated under the name NutsServices, and supplies energy to consumers under the names Budget Energie and Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij (NLE). Budget Thuis hired other companies to call consumers to sell energy contracts. An investigation conducted by ACM revealed that, in telemarketing calls, these intermediaries did not disclose that they were calling on behalf of Budget Thuis to offer energy contracts. In addition, important information about the duration of the contract, cancellation fees, the terms and conditions for special offers, and the rates were mentioned late during the conversation or even not at all.

Being provided incorrect and incomplete information, consumers were encouraged to sign energy contracts. For example, intermediaries said that they were calling to do an energy measurement or because of a nationwide price reduction. In addition, during the telemarketing calls, these intermediaries did not mention that they were calling on behalf of Budget Thuis. This is prohibited.

The fine for Budget Thuis is the second fine that ACM has imposed as part of an investigation into misleading customer-acquisition practices by energy companies. ACM had previously imposed a fine on another supplier for similar violations. Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, comments: “Consumers spend a big share of their household budgets on energy. Signing an energy contract is therefore an important decision about which consumers must be informed properly. Energy suppliers must be clear about the contract that they are offering. In addition, it must be immediately clear for consumers that a company is calling to sell an energy contract. This investigation has revealed that Budget Thuis misled consumers. That is why we have imposed a fine on the company.” 

Following a 2021 investigation, ACM found that Budget Thuis had misled consumers in telemarketing calls regarding energy contracts in 2019 and 2020. That is why the fine has been imposed. Budget Thuis has already paid the fine of 1.8 million euros. 

Advice for consumers

Unsolicited calls made by companies or organizations can be annoying to a lot of people. That is why companies need to comply with telemarketing rules. Companies can only make telemarketing calls to consumers if those consumers have explicitly agreed to such calls or if they have been customers with the company or still are. ACM ConsuWijzer’s website has more information and tips for people that still receive unsolicited phone calls (in Dutch).

ACM also points out to consumers that energy contracts that are offered through unsolicited telemarketing calls are not always the best choice for consumers. That is why ACM recommends consumers always to examine any offers for a new contract or adjusted rates very carefully, and to compare such offers with their current contracts and with offers from other providers. Recommendations regarding how to choose a new energy supplier (in Dutch) can be found on ACM ConsuWijzer.

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