The Federal Ombudsman Service for Energy of Belgium (Service de Médiation de l’Energie/Ombudsdienst voor Energie) has published its annual report 2018.
During 2018, the Federal Ombudsman Service for Energy received a total of 6,713 complaints (15% more than in 2017 and 21% more than in 2016). According to the Ombudsman Service, this permanent increase in the number of complaints is mainly due to: energy suppliers’ market practices (increase of 13%); the high energy invoices and the payment problems associated with them (35% increase), and the cessation of the activities of a number of suppliers (Belpower, Energy People, Comfort Energy, and Zeno, among others).
Concerning market practices, the Ombudsman underlines two issues: that door-to-door sales of energy contracts that don’t always respect the sectorial code of conduct and that certain suppliers charge a (hidden) fee for the termination of a contract. On this ground, on 3 August 2018, at the request of the Ombudsman Service for Energy, the Consumers Ombudsman Service filed a collective action with the Commercial Court of Brussels against the fixed fees charged by certain energy suppliers.
Of the admissible complaints (45% of the total number of complaints), 76% were positively resolved via an amicable settlement. This positive resolution of the settled files resulted in a total amount of €406,582 in financial compensation, or rectifications, or an average of €170 per settled admissible complaint in 2018.
During last year, the Ombudsman also formulated some political recommendations, including the prohibition of invoicing without a supply contract having been concluded, the energy suppliers’ commitment to refrain from door-to-door sales, the limitation of back-billing to 12 months and the implementation of specific measures in case of payment problems.