State Secretary for Consumer Protection Eva De Bleeker (Open Vld) gives energy suppliers another week who, despite reminders and fines from the Economic Inspectorate, still do not offer efficient customer service . If they have not presented a clear roadmap by this deadline, a court summons will follow, she said on Sunday on the set of “Zevende Dag” (VRT).
High energy prices are accompanied by an increase in the number of complaints to suppliers. The federal public service (FPS) Economy has already recorded 1,634 this year, while the energy ombudsman has received, over the first eight months of the year, twice as many as last year at the same period. .
These complaints most often relate to delays “endless” of obtaining the adjustment invoice, on the amount of this invoice and the accessibility of customer service, or even on the latter’s ability to respond satisfactorily to requests. Some complaints also relate to abusive commercial practices, in the context of a sale by telephone or door-to-door. “Why are there no employees to answer customer questions, but there are when it comes to finding new customers?“, questions Ms. De Bleeker. The complaints are aimed just as much at suppliers who have signed the “consumer agreement” (transparency of the offer and protection of customers) as those who have not.
“My patience is exhausted”
Over the past two years, investigations by the Inspectorate have been carried out with seven suppliers, both large and small. The Minister did not indicate which ones. Since last year, five warnings have been issued and six reports drawn up. Eva De Bleeker made proposals to the sector a few weeks ago in order to solve the problems of transparency, provisions, regularization invoices and reimbursement. But many customers still find the way their provisions are calculated too vague.
If the sector does not respond, the Secretary of State will transpose her proposals into law, particularly in terms of the obligation to inform or binding deadlines for the adjustment invoice and any reimbursement. Despite the risk of a fine of up to 80,000 euros, seven energy suppliers remain recalcitrant, according to Eva De Bleeker. “My patience is exhausted”, she says. In addition to the threat of legal action, possibly accompanied by penalty payments, the Economic Inspectorate can impose administrative fines. “Force majeure cannot be a permanent excuse,” said the Secretary of State.