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Energy bills are easier to understand thanks to ACM

Over the past few years, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has pushed for energy bills that consumers are able to verify themselves. Consumers should be able to link the cost items found on their bills easily to the items in their contracts and in any information about price adjustments. ACM has established that all energy companies now meet these basic principles. Consumers are now better able to verify whether their energy companies have delivered what was agreed upon.

Last year’s check-ups

Last year, ACM established that, of the 40 energy providers whose energy bills ACM had examined, 16 providers met said basic principles. The other 21 providers still needed to take several steps in order to get there, while three providers performed so badly that ACM threatened with orders subject to periodic penalty payments to force them to improve their practices. In the end, ACM only imposed two orders subject to periodic penalty payments, but these two providers did not need to pay any penalty payments as they implemented the desired adjustments on time. By now, all 40 providers comply with the basic principles. Bernadette van Buchem, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “For many households, energy is a significant item in their budgets. That is why we find it important that consumers get bills that they are able to understand and verify for themselves. This will also help consumers in conversations with energy providers if their bills turn out unexpectedly higher.”

Offers, contracts, and bills: verifiable and easy-to-understand

Over the past few years, ACM has worked hard on making information easy-to-understand in the entire consumer life cycle: from offers to contracts, and, finally, to bills. Energy bills are the final piece in that process. Only if consumers are able to compare the offers made by their energy providers with the contracts they sign, and with the bills they receive, will they be able to verify whether or not their providers stick to what was agreed upon. Consumers will then be able to verify whether they actually pay the rates that they had agreed to. In this study, ACM did not assess the accuracy of energy bills.

Administrative costs

In its study, ACM did find that several energy providers charged unavoidable costs besides the fixed delivery costs. As a rule, unavoidable costs must be included in the fixed standing charge. The providers involved have already adjusted this.