Energy companies cannot stop supplying energy to consumers just because energy prices have gone up. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has issued this statement amid reports filed by consumers with its consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer.
ACM has received various reports from consumers that have received letters from their energy companies telling them that their energy contracts have been unilaterally cancelled. In addition, ACM has received questions from consumers whose suppliers tell them that their fixed-rate contracts will be cancelled and that they are offered variable-rate contracts instead. In most of these situations, energy companies refer to their general terms and conditions or claim non-payment on the part of consumers.
Terminating the supply of energy without prior warning and without giving notice is not allowed under any circumstances. Terminating the supply of energy because of non-payment is only allowed if the supplier has already sent out a payment reminder before, and, in that reminder, has pointed out the option of debt assistance. These rules have been laid down in the Protocol regarding the disconnection policy for small-scale users of electricity and natural gas (in Dutch: Regeling afsluitbeleid voor kleinverbruikers van elektriciteit en gas).
ACM recommends consumers that are in such situations to send a letter or email to their suppliers reminding them of the fact that suppliers cannot unilaterally terminate contracts and that they cannot stop their supply of energy. ACM will also remind energy companies of these rules.
Businesses can only supply energy to consumers if they have a license issued by ACM. ACM keeps a close watch on whether suppliers are able to guarantee a secure supply of natural gas and electricity to consumers. Consumers need not to worry about not receiving any natural gas or electricity anymore if their suppliers do end up in financial trouble.
ACM cannot intervene in any energy company’s financial decisions, but it can revoke their licenses if the security of supply is at stake. In that case, all customers of that company will be ‘redistributed’ among other license holders. Consumers will automatically receive new energy contracts from their new suppliers, and will be able to decide after 30 days whether they wish to remain customers with that new supplier. Bankruptcies of suppliers can have negative consequences for consumers, for example if a supplier still owes money to a consumer, or if consumers have to pay more after the redistribution.
Consumers can go to the website of ACM ConsuWijzer for more information and for filing online reports.