Energy supplier swap made easy

Changing energy supplier in France has been made easier

It’s worth checking if your current deal is the best for you or if you could save with an alternative one

PEOPLE switching from government regulated electricity or gas tariffs with EDF or GDF-Suez to market-price options with other firms can return to regulated prices after six months.

The new rules, passed by parliament, have been set up to encourage more people to try alternative tariffs.

Previously it was not possible to switch back to government tariffs on gas and the option for those who changed electrical supplier was originally stopped this early this year.

The new law may encourage more people to try an alternative supplier.

Regulated tariffs are not necessarily the cheapest, though they do benefit from a certain stability as they are set by the state.

A recent survey showed only 2% of people were thinking of changing their electricity or gas supplier, down from a third who were interested before the market was opened up in 2007.

A new study by FNCCR (a body representing local public services in the energy sector) also looked at how many people had already changed suppliers – just 2% for gas and 3% for electricity. The body has described deregulation of the market as “a fiasco” because the take-up is so low.

Among those questioned who were considering a change, 49% said their priority would be a better price, 23% said the use of environmentally-friendly production methods would sway them and 15% said they would do it for a better service.

The survey found that Poweo was the electricity firm most likely to have contacted people to market their services, closely followed by Direct-Energie, both overtaking GDF-Suez which was the most commonly-cited in a study two years ago. For gas, Direct-Energie came just below EDF and equal with GDF (who are trying to get lost customers to change back to them).

How to change suppliers

There is an official site on energy suppliers

In les offres - click on les fournisseurs (suppliers) and put in your postcode for a list of those available.

Click the fiches de présentation (and if necessary then look for the fiche standardisée) for standardised details of the firms’ offers. On this site there is also a comparateur d’offres (offer comparer) which helps you compare what you have at the moment with other options (have a bill to hand). There is also a helpline: 08 10 11 22 12 (free from a landline).

Your supplier cannot charge you a penalty fee for changing suppliers but they can, in certain circumstances, bill you for expenses incurred by the cancellation if these are explicitly mentioned in your contract with them and they can justify the cost. There are no fees for leaving a regulated tariff.

If you sign a contract with a new supplier your contract with the old supplier is automatically cancelled. There is no need to change your meter.

Once you have agreed with a new supplier to change, you agree a changeover day (date de changement de fournisseur) and give them your PDL (point de livraison) number or PCE (point de comptage-estimation) one from your last electricity or gas bill.

An estimate is made for you for your usage at the changeover date (you can pass on your actual meter readings to your new supplier and it will be taken into account) or you can ask for an engineer to check the meter. However the second option is paid for (you would ask your new supplier to do a relevé spécial de compteur). This figure is used by your old supplier to work out your last bill and by the new one to work out the starting point for your first bill with them.

The Institut National de la Consommation, says goods like TVs or washing machines at the chain Darty are often being sold along with a new electricity contract - and if you do not take care you can find you have signed up for a new supplier. If a new contract is mentioned make sure you check who it is with.

Have you swapped suppliers? Was it straightforward? How much did you save? Let us know at, mentioning “energy suppliers” in the email title

Who's the alternative?

APART from the former national providers, GDF-Suez for gas and EDF for electricity, there are eight other national energy firms who each cover 90% of France (plus some local ones). See ‘how to change suppliers’.

Note that the historic providers can also be considered “alternatives” for the energy types when you switch from government tariffs.

Alternative gas suppliers are: Altergaz, EDF Bleu Ciel, Direct Energie, Poweo.

Electricity suppliers are: Alterna, Direct Energie, Enercoop, Energem, Gaz de France (GDF) Dolce Vita, GEG Source d’Energies, Planète Oui and Poweo.

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