NMa fines Dutch energy supplier Greenchoice EUR 7.2 million
For years, Dutch energy supplier Greenchoice sent its final bills late to customers that had cancelled their contracts, or even failed to send any final bills at all. In most of these cases, customers were entitled to overpayment refunds. The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has therefore imposed a fine of EUR 7.2 million on Greenchoice. All affected customers have finally received their final bills, as well as their refunds. In close consultation with the NMa, Greenchoice has taken measures to prevent this from happening again. Peter Plug, director of the NMa’s Office of Energy Regulation, reacts: ‘Greenchoice has put its house in order, and the NMa will closely watch this process to safeguard their trustworthiness in the future.’
The NMa’s investigation focused on the timeliness of final bills. The NMa checked whether Greenchoice sent its customers a final bill within two months after they had switched suppliers. It turned out that, between March 2005 and March 2011, Greenchoice failed to send final bills on time in more than 20 per cent of the cases. More than half of the final bills within this group were not even sent at all. In most cases, these customers were entitled to overpayment refunds. It was discovered that, in its administrative system, Greenchoice did draw up these final bills, but it failed to send them to customers. Affected customers were thus unaware they were actually entitled to overpayment refunds. Customers that did ask for their final bills were eventually given them. For the period under investigation, approximately EUR 8.6 million was not returned to customers.
The NMa has imposed a fine of EUR 7.2 million on Greenchoice for its negligent behavior. In addition, Greenchoice has taken several measures to repair the damage suffered by consumers, and to prevent this from happening again. It has finally paid the overpayment refunds to affected customers, and it will additionally pay interest as well. The current members of the board will take responsibility, and step down. Moreover, Greenchoice will take steps to reorganize itself in such a way that the likelihood of future offenses is minimized, for example, by setting up a compliance program. The NMa will strictly see to it that the new board complies with all regulations. Mr. Plug adds: ‘Given the measures that have been taken, and Greenchoice’s constructive attitude during the investigation, the NMa is confident that Greenchoice can serve its customers as a reliable energy supplier.’
The NMa highly values that consumers receive final bills that are correct and on time. The ability to switch energy suppliers quickly and easily relies on having error-free administrative processes. Hassle-free switching leads to stimulation of competition among suppliers, which in turn stimulates competition in the energy industry. ‘That is the reason the NMa is taking firm action right now, so that consumers continue to be able to switch suppliers without having to worry about anything,’ says Mr. Plug.