Four electricity providers in France have appeared in court in Paris for alleged ‘abusive practices’, including changing the conditions of a contract without properly informing consumers.
Consumer association la CLCV (Consommation, logement et cadre de vie) took ekWateur, GreenYellow, Mint Energie and Ovo Energy to court.
It alleges that the companies changed the conditions of their contracts or increased tariffs without informing consumers properly, and had ‘abusive’ clauses in their literature.
François Carlier, general delegate of the CLCV, told Le Parisien: "In order to preserve their margins, or sometimes to make up for strategic errors, a lack of anticipation or precaution, some are tempted to resort to procedures that are particularly harmful to their customers.”
The association is also advising consumers to “step up their awareness” and “carefully read” all information that they receive.
It said that it had found instances of sudden rises in price – sometimes by as much as 30% - that were ‘discreetly’ written into long contracts. Some operators reserved their right to modify their contracts unilaterally.
The CLCV added that consumers would be better to change their electricity contract to the so-called regulated sales tariff (tarif réglementé de vente - TRV), which “offers tariff security and peace of mind, especially when alternative operators do not seem to respect the regulations”.
However, TRV is not possible for gas contracts.
The CLCV first alerted consumers to alleged “brutal and abusive” practices in October.
It said: “We are shocked to learn that some [operators] inform their customers of these increases by simply sending an email.
“This process, which they may see as a contractual or benign tariff change, is not acceptable when a tariff increase is carried out that leads to an increase in the bill of several hundred euros per year.”
It comes as France is set to send out cheques of €100 to help lower-income families with rising energy costs. Regulated gas prices have been frozen and deferred until June 30, 2022.