ACM takes action against aggressive and misleading customer acquisition practices for energy contracts
Following consumer reports, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is looking into aggressive and misleading customer acquisition practices with regard to energy contract selling.
ACM is calling on consumers who have experienced aggressive acquisition practices or deception by salespeople of energy contracts to contact ConsuWijzer, ACM’s consumer information portal. Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: ‘The reports that we receive through ConsuWijzer are extremely valuable to ACM’s oversight. Based on these reports, we determine what problems we will tackle.’
In what situations should you file a report with ConsuWijzer?
ACM is calling on consumers (and also on independent contractors who consume energy primarily for private purposes) to contact ConsuWijzer if they have any experience with aggressive acquisition practices or deception with regard to energy contract selling. Examples of deception or aggressive acquisition practices with regard to energy contract selling are:
- The salesperson says: ‘You are not stuck with anything, and you can cancel at any time’, but after signing the contract you discover all sorts of conditions.
- The salesperson says: ‘Unless you sign a new contract, you will pay a lot more over the next few years.’ This can be a false and misleading statement, especially if it insufficiently explained what circumstances and conditions will lead to such an outcome.
- Failing to mention a possible termination fee if the term of the contract of the current energy supplier has not yet expired.
- Sending a contract whereas the customer had only requested information.
- Failing to say anything about the 14-day cooling-off period.
- Failing to make a personalized offer (which means failing to take into account the personal situation such as their energy consumption).
- Failing to ask for consent to access the register containing the data about energy-contract expiration dates.
Reports filed with ConsuWijzer are important to ACM’s oversight
For consumers, ConsuWijzer is a valuable source of information. Consumers can get advice about their rights from ConsuWijzer over the phone, WhatsApp, and by e-mail. On ConsuWijzer’s website, they can also find information and sample letters in order to exercise their rights themselves.
For ACM, ConsuWijzer is an important source of information regarding the problems that consumers encounter. Over the first half of 2019, ConsuWijzer received more than 25,000 questions and reports from consumers. The reports are important to ACM’s oversight. ConsuWijzer.nl was visited more than 2 million times in the first half of 2019. The subjects about which consumers sought information or contacted ConsuWijzer the most in the first half of 2019 were:
- Unsolicited telemarketing, including calls by or on behalf of energy suppliers (in Dutch)
- Warranty and rights if the product is faulty (in Dutch)
- Cancelling subscriptions or contracts and automatic renewals (in Dutch)
- Consumer rights in case of problems with a product that was ordered online or with its delivery (in Dutch)
- The sample letters (in Dutch) were downloaded many times as well
In the first half of 2019, consumer reports have led to all kinds of actions by ACM, for example:
- ACM issued warnings about aggressive practices by debt-collection agencies that force consumers to pay unlawful bills
- It imposed orders subject to periodic penalty payments on rental agencies that charge lessees with unlawful fees
- It ensured consumer protection for small businesses that are supplied with energy in their private homes
- ACM imposed a fine on a company that offered holiday villas and was not clear about the prices it charged
- It made Facebook adjust its terms and conditions in favor of consumers