The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) recently reprimanded three energy companies, because the consumer information on their websites was incorrect. ACM used orders subject to periodic penalty payments to force two energy companies to adjust their information. In late-2014, ACM agreed with the industry that they would bring their information into line with the rules. ACM also announced that it would enforce compliance with those rules. In that context, four energy companies had already been reprimanded, and now another three have been as well. Anita Vegter, Member of the Board of ACM, adds: “It is disappointing that we have to take enforcement actions again. ACM will continue to take action against businesses that give their customers incorrect or incomplete information. Having clear information is essential for consumers in order to be able to compare prices, and to be able to make a well-informed choice.”
The companies against which ACM has taken enforcement actions are Partner Energie B.V., which is active under the name Gewoon Energie, and Flexenergie B.V., also known as Energieflex. The third company adjusted the information on its website on time.
What went wrong?
ACM established that Gewoon Energie had failed to inform consumers clearly about the fact that it acted as a reseller on behalf of energy company Anode. Furthermore, it gave incorrect and unclear information about the cooling-off period that consumers have when they take out a contract. ACM imposed an order subject to periodic penalty payments in order to force the company to adjust its information. Gewoon Energie decided to take down its website.
Energieflex was unclear about the network management costs that all consumers were charged. In addition, it was also unclear about the cooling-off period. Finally, its calculation tool did not meet the requirements of the so-called ‘Personalized Offer’ (in Dutch: Aanbod op Maat), with which consumers are able to determine what their costs will be based on their actual energy consumption. ACM imposed an order subject to periodic penalty payments on Energieflex in order to force it to adjust its information. Energieflex has already adjusted its information.
The third company failed to display the network management costs properly. At the request of ACM, this company adjusted the information on time, thereby avoiding an order subject to periodic penalty payments.
Why has ACM taken action?
The law mandates that all energy companies provide their customers with complete and correct information. In addition, all energy companies have agreed to offer ‘Personalized Offers,’ with which consumers are able to compare offers from different companies. This has been laid down in the code of conduct of trade association Energie Nederland.
As a result of ACM’s enforcement actions, the information on the websites of the energy companies in question have already been adjusted. That is why ACM over the next few months will shift its attention to other types of information that energy companies offer their customers, such as in telemarketing calls.