Consumer affairs minister angry as Electrabel pushes up prices

Summary

Energy supplier Electrabel is increasing its prices to make up for last year’s government-imposed cuts; other providers could follow their example

Minister to consumers: compare prices

Consumers have been advised to compare the prices offered by various electricity suppliers, following allegations that the largest of them, Electrabel, is trying to circumvent government measures taken to reduce prices.

According to reports, the company is imposing an increase of 10% to 15% on what are known as the “easy customers” – hundreds of thousands of people who have remained customers of the company at a time when hundreds of thousands more began switching suppliers to get better deals.

“I’m getting an intense feeling of déjà vu,” commented federal consumer affairs minister Johan Vande Lanotte. “In 2007, 10 days after the elections, prices went up. Now we’re seeing the same thing played out. But this time there’s no way we’re going to take six years to set things straight.”

Clients will receive a letter from Electrabel informing them of the new prices. According to Vande Lanotte, suppliers have seen an opportunity to increase prices after the government imposed a cut of about 15% which came into effect in January last year. In addition, some suppliers are refusing to pass on to customers a reduction in VAT from 21% to 6%, which was ushered in last month.

“It looks as if Electrabel is employing a commercial strategy to recoup the losses suffered by the lowering of VAT and other measures taken by the government to bring energy prices under control,” commented consumer organisation Test-Aankoop, describing the move as “a disgraceful strategy. The price of electricity on the open market remains very low. Nothing can justify such an increase”.

Electrabel is currently the only energy provider increasing prices, but others are expected to follow in the weeks to come. Consumers in Flanders can find a comparison tool on the website of the Flemish energy regulator Vreg. Residents in the Brussels-Capital Region have the same option on the site of their energy regulator Brugel