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More fixed energy contracts thanks to new ACM rules: consumers have plenty to choose from once again

On June 1, 2023, new rules regarding the early termination of fixed energy contracts went into effect, and this has resulted in energy suppliers offering more fixed contracts again. The Monitor on the consumer energy market of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) shows that the number of fixed contracts with contract lengths of one year or more went up by more than 50 percent. In addition, once again, more energy suppliers offer fixed contracts with longer contract lengths.

In addition to the selection of fixed contracts, consumers can also choose from a broad selection of contracts with dynamic or variable rates. Last month, the prices for new variable-rate contracts went down by over 5 percent. Consumers looking for a new contract can stay with their current supplier or go to a different one.

ACM has adjusted the rules for early termination of fixed contracts in order to stimulate suppliers to offer fixed contracts. If consumers cancel their fixed contracts before their end dates, they must pay an early-termination fee equal to the amount of the loss that the energy supplier incurs because of the early termination. As fixed contracts truly are fixed contracts because of these new rules, ACM calls on consumers and other small-scale users to pay extra attention when taking out a fixed contract. Consumers that wish to take out a new contract must always properly compare the available contracts themselves, and never agree to unsolicited offers just like that, for example ones that are offered over the phone.

Monitor on the consumer experience

Concurrently with the update of the Monitor on the consumer energy market, ACM also publishes a Monitor on the consumer experience containing the results of a consumer survey that ACM has had carried out every year since 2018. This survey shows the knowledge of the energy market among consumers, their experience with the energy market, and consumers’ behavior on that market.

The Monitor on the consumer experience shows that consumers are slightly less satisfied with the service of their suppliers (a decrease from 77 percent in 2022 to 72 percent in 2023). Consumers are particularly dissatisfied with the prices they have to pay. The number of consumers that find the energy prices high or very high has risen from 78 percent in 2022 to 84 percent in 2023.

Consumers have fewer complaints about the way in which they are informed by their own suppliers on the prices they have to pay for natural gas and electricity. The number of consumers that finds the price information easy-to-understand has risen from 36 percent to 46 percent. As each energy supplier presents their cost breakdowns in their own way, consumers do find it difficult to compare the prices of different energy suppliers. Of those surveyed, 36 percent find this difficult.

Clear information about the end of the price cap

Suppliers and comparison sites that still offer new contracts for natural gas and electricity with rates above the price cap must be open about the effect of the end of the price cap on January 1, 2024. In May, ACM checked whether comparison sites do so. Comparison sites that were not clear about this were confronted by ACM about that, and have subsequently clarified this on their websites.

The consumer experience of heat users

In the Monitor on the consumer experience, ACM had also commissioned surveys into households that are connected to heat networks. This monitor shows that 64 percent of those surveyed is satisfied with the quality (as opposed to 70 percent in 2022). Heat users feel that heat prices are very high (72 percent of those surveyed feel this compared with 77 percent in 2022). Of those heat users surveyed, 13 percent is very confident or extremely confident that heat suppliers keep the interests of customers in mind, and 50 percent is not confident or not confident at all.

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