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ACM fines DGB for misleading telemarketing calls involving energy contracts

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine of 400,000 euros on energy supplier DGB Energie B.V. for misleading telemarketing practices involving energy contracts. DGB hired other companies to call consumers to sell energy contracts. During such sales calls, these intermediaries did not mention that they were calling on behalf of DGB to offer energy contracts. In addition, important information, such as the duration of the contract, cancellation fees, the rates, and the total annual costs were mentioned quite late in the conversation or not even at all.

Companies told consumers that they were calling in response to complaints regarding acquisition calls made by another energy company, and offered to make sure that people no longer received any calls. Other consumers were told that something had gone wrong in the switching process, and that a recalculation had to be done in connection with the rate reduction. In addition, consumers were not properly informed about the conditions for reimbursement of the switching penalty from the former supplier. However, the fact that DGB, too, could charge a switching penalty if the new contract was terminated before the end of the contract, was often left unmentioned as well.

ACM conducted a study into customer-acquisition practices by energy companies because it had received many complaints through its consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer. Cateautje Heijmans, Member of the Board of ACM, comments: “It’s important that consumers know what energy supplier is calling them. In addition, it has to be clear from the beginning of each call that a company is trying to sell a new energy contract. And in that context, consumers must receive the right information straight away so that, on the basis on that information, they are able to decide whether or not to sign a contract. This study revealed that DGB did not comply with the rules and that it has misled consumers. That is why we have imposed a fine on the company.”

The fine has been imposed because, following a 2021 study, ACM had found that DGB misled consumers in telemarketing calls regarding energy contracts in 2019 and 2020. DGB still has the opportunity to file an objection or an appeal against ACM’s decision.

Advice for consumers

Many people find it annoying when companies or organizations make unsolicited calls. 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 calls on 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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