NMa: Consumer May Rely on Price Comparison Websites for Electricity and Gas
Dutch energy price comparison websites are of good quality. So concludes the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) in a recent survey of Internet price comparison websites for electricity and gas.
The NMa carries out an annual review of price comparison websites, as these prove an important source of information to consumers in search of an energy provider. Besides taking into account accuracy, comprehensiveness and independence, the regulator has now also judged the websites' transparency. This involved a test of the websites' information on specific costs incorporated in the prices shown.
Peter Plug, director of the Office of Energy Regulation (DTe) with the NMa: 'Testing price comparison websites is part of our strategy to increase transparency in the energy market. On the one hand, the quality of price comparison websites has greatly increased in the past two years; on the other hand, marked differences in quality are now gradually disappearing. At the moment, the consumer has sufficient high-quality information at his disposal to guide him in his search for an energy provider.'
In the Netherlands, eleven websites are available to consumers, offering price ratings for electricity and gas. Energieleveranciers.nl, a newcomer among price comparison websites, entered the market last September. In the meantime, Energieplaza.nl has (temporarily) closed down services. The eleven price comparison websites are supported by four search engines. NMa's survey included one website for every search engine: Energieprijzen.nl, Gaslicht.com, Energiewereld.nl and Energieleveranciers.nl.
The quality standard of the websites under consideration has not changed in comparison to the previous survey in August 2005. Supply fees employed in calculations are correct and the websites feature almost all current providers of electricity and gas. The search engines of Energieleveranciers, Energiewereld and Gaslicht in some cases apply a double VAT charge. Companies have indicated this will soon be altered. With regard to transparency, the NMa considers it important that consumers are clearly informed as to the various costs specifications relevant to the overall comparison of energy bills. The four website have all been marked sufficient in this regard.
In the meantime, the research results have been made known to the price comparison websites and will be made available on the DTe's website (www.acm.nl) as from today. The manual 'Changing your energy company' (Overstappen naar een ander energiebedrijf) may also be consulted on DTe's website.