Energy giant fined €100m for abusing market
Competitions watchdog hands down one of its largest ever fines to Engie
Energy giant Engie, the former GDF, has been fined €100million for abusing its market position in one of the heaviest fines ever handed down by the French competitions authority.
It was found to have used files on former clients to entice them to sign deals when the gas and electricity market was opened for competition – and to have repeatedly lied to prevent clients from leaving for rival offers.
The Autorité de la Concurrence said Engie had used files it held on 11million historic Gas de France clients to prepare offers to supply them with electricity and gas.
When the small business market was opened to competition in 2004 and the household market in 2007, the company used its previous knowledge of clients eligible for regulated energy tariffs to prepare targeted offers at market prices, although these were not the most competitive.
It also used a misleading claim to dissuade clients from signing with rivals by saying that its guarantee of supply was better than theirs when, in reality, the security of supply was exactly the same by law.
The competitions authority said Engie as historic supplier was allowed to compete against other firms but could not abuse its dominant position to compete other than on the merits of its offer.
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Rival energy firm Direct Energie and consumer rights group UFC Que Choisir had called in the competitions authority over the abuses.
Engie did not contest their claims but did not admit any fault. It worked with the authority to reduce the amount of the fine and the authority said the fine still reflected the scale of the abuse, given the size of the market. The fine will be paid to the government.
Earlier this month Engie posted a net loss of €400m – but this was an improvement on last year where it reported a €4.6billion loss. Its income fell slightly, from €2.6bn to €2.5bn, but the results already took into account the €100m fine.