Regulated gas tariffs are due to be abolished on June 30, meaning millions of clients must start to think about switching to a contract at market prices.
This follows a ruling from France’s highest administrative court in July 2017 that said regulated tariffs were contrary to European competition law.
However, the Conseil d’Etat ruled that regulated electricity prices could continue as they are in the ‘general interest’.
Since November 20, 2019, it is impossible to take out a gas contract at the regulated tariff.
On June 30 last year, 2.7 million households were still signed up, however.
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Check your tariff on comparison sites
To find the best deal, you can consult comparison sites such as that of national energy ombudsman the Médiateur National de l’Energie (MNE), at comparateur-offres.energie-info.fr
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Certain private companies such as Hello Watt also have comparison platforms that allow you to sign up to an offer.
Bastien Piot, brand and communication manager at Hello Watt, said: “When we look at the market offers today, there are generally some which are 5% lower than the regulated tariff.”
Caroline Keller, head of information and communication at the MNE, said: “There are some offers at the same level as the regulated tariff, or marginally lower, but far fewer than before the crisis.”
Providers must add all of their offers to the MNE’s publicly-funded comparison site.
“It is important to check because some are much more expensive,” she said.
The same applies if you are contacted by a company offering a good deal.
“Some companies call, saying they will compare offers, but in general they make you sign a contract with their partners.”
When you take out a new contract, your old contract is cancelled automatically.
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Three types of pricing
Consumers can currently choose between three types of offer: market offers indexed on the regulated tariff, meaning they rise and fall at the same rate; offers indexed on market prices, which are much more likely to fluctuate than regulated prices; and fixed-price offers that stay the same for a year or more.
“If fixed-price offers are available, we recommend taking them,” Mr Piot said.
“It is highly unlikely prices will fall in the years to come. On the contrary, we expect them to continue to rise.”
According to Ms Keller, however: “Fixed-price offers are currently all very expensive.”
Offers linked to market prices are considered extremely risky in the current context.
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What happens after June 30?
The best option for most people is likely to be an offer indexed on the regulated tariff. But what happens when that is abolished?
The Commission de régulation de l’énergie (CRE) energy regulator is working on a benchmark price, which will be calculated in a similar way to the regulated tariff.
It is very likely offers currently indexed on the regulated tariff will be linked to this new price, Ms Keller said.
Clients will be notified one month in advance of the new calculation method and will have the option of switching to a different provider.
Lucile Buisson, who works on energy policy for consumer rights group UFC-Que Choisir, said: “I think prices indexed to this new rate will be more attractive than fixed-price offers come July.”
Engie previously had to offer contracts at the regulated tariff, but this will not be the case for the new benchmark.
“I think it is likely there will be offers at this price but it is not an obligation.”
You will not be cut off
If you are currently on the regulated tariff and fail to take action before July 1, your gas supply will not be cut off.
You will be automatically signed up to a market-rate offer with your previous supplier.
The CRE will decide in the coming months what type of offer this will be.
“We will argue in favour of this being a low-risk offer,” Ms Buisson said.
Since there are few offers cheaper than the regulated tariff, it is best to wait until the last minute before switching, she added.
This is due to the government’s bouclier tarifaire (price shield), which limited regulated gas prices to a 15% rise in January after they were frozen completely in November 2021.
Offers indexed on the regulated tariff are also covered.
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Some predict extension of regulated tariff
The price freeze is enshrined in law until June 30, the same day the regulated tariff is set to be abolished.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has though said the “principle of the price freeze” will be extended until “the end of the year”.
“We are struggling to see how the transition will work. With the regulated tariff set to disappear, they need to find a way to apply the price freeze.
“It is likely the regulated tariff will be extended until the end of the year,” Ms Buisson suggested.
Consumer group CLCV has written to the president requesting the regulated tariff be extended by two years.
Alternatively, the price freeze could be extended using the benchmark price.
Read supplier messages attentively to avoid surprises
It is also more important than ever to keep on top of changes, even once you have signed a new contract.
Ms Keller said: “When you receive a message from your provider, you should read it attentively, and if they mention new prices, you need to compare the price per kWh to other offers on the market.
“There are providers who offer very attractive prices but after a few months they send a message saying they are raising them.
“They have the right to do so if they warn clients a month in advance but these messages often go unseen.”
This is a relatively new phenomenon, directly linked to the energy crisis.
“Certain consumers have had some very unpleasant surprises.”
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