France’s gas market is changing, with regulated gas prices ending in June. We explain the changes and how to make the most of them if you are still on a regulated tariff.
What is the situation with gas prices in France?
Until now, regulated gas tariffs have been available in France (tarifs réglementés de vente, TRV). This means that the price of these contracts has been fixed by public authorities in the country, according to certain formulas. 95% of the country is covered for this by a tariff offered by historic provider Engie and the rest by local companies (especially in Bordeaux and Strasbourg).
The TRV goes back to 1946 in France and was first brought in by Gaz de France (GDF), which is now Engie. Other options have been available via other companies since 2007, to end the monopoly of Engie and electricity provider EDF.
Regulated tariffs are not always the cheapest option, but they do offer a reliable and consistent service. Currently, 2.5 million clients are still on this tariff (out of around 11 million gas clients in France in total).
The regulated electricity price and regulated electricity contracts will not be affected by the ending of the regulated tariff for gas.
What is changing and why?
The TRV will no longer be available after June 30.
In 2017, France’s top administrative authority Conseil d’Etat ruled that regulated tariffs were against European laws. This was followed in 2019 by a new climate law, which ruled that these contracts must no longer be sold, and should be ended completely by June 30, 2023.
Is this the same as the government energy price shield?
France has recently had a bouclier tarifaire policy in place to limit energy price rises.
This is nothing to do with the regulated tariffs and translates as ‘tariff shield’. It was brought in as a way to keep energy prices down amid a backdrop of inflation and the war in Ukraine.
The prices were frozen last year at the level of November 2021, and this year the government pledged they would not rise more than 15%.
France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said the gas price shield would continue until the end of this year, but that its existence was theoretical because the cost of wholesale gas had fallen so much in recent months.
Should I change my contract?
There is no need to do anything unless you want to.
People who are currently on a regulated gas contract will automatically move, on June 30, to l’offre passerelle d’Engie (‘bridging offer’). This is not really a separate contract or offer, because it only concerns people who are on the regulated tariff and other people cannot opt for it.
There will be no interruption to the gas supply.
The offre passarelle will calculate the price of gas per kilowatt hour, on a monthly basis. It will use a formula that will be validated by the Commission de Régulation d’Energie (CRE).
It will be similar to the previous regulated tariff but this formula is not expected to be confirmed until mid-June.
Consumer association UFC-Que Choisir has recommended that people who are currently on a regulated gas tariff should wait until July 1, 2023, at least before making any changes, so you can check the new tariffs and conditions and see if they still suit you.
The CRE has committed to publishing prices for gas every month, to help consumers keep an eye on the markets.
If I am not happy with my gas contract, how do I search for a different supplier?
Once you know the tariffs and conditions of the new Engie offer, you can compare it to other offers on the market, and switch if you prefer.
Anyone on a contract can change gas providers at any time, without paying a fee. This means that it always makes sense to compare current offers available, to see if you could save money compared to your current deal. When you sign up for a new deal, your old contract is ended automatically without you having to do anything.
There are several comparison tools available. The ‘official’ energy comparison tool, from the Médiateur national de l’énergie, is online here.
UFC-Que Choisir also has a comparison tool (its comparateur) that lets you check current gas and electricity offers and calculate which could provide you with the best value. Other comparison tools also exist, like this one.
UFC-Que Choisir recommends that people proceed with caution after July 1, because “the change will shake up the market” and could lead to more competitive offers on the market.
Since October 2022, the price of gas has been dropping on the markets, which is likely to mean providers will provide better-value contracts over the weeks and months following the end of regulated tariffs.
Read more: Is there a fee for changing energy contracts in France?
However, le Médiateur national de l’énergie advises:
- Take your time and do not sign a contract immediately when you are approached
- Never rely on commercial offers based on the number of monthly payments, which can change. The tariff must be offered and based on the price per kilowatt-hour.
It also recommends that consumers sign up for fixed-price tariffs, which are less affected by changing markets.
François Carlier the president of the CLCV consumer group, said he recommends avoiding ‘too-good-to-be-true’ offers from smaller companies.
He told FranceInfo: “[During the energy crisis] many contracts were broken, and saw rises of 40 to 80%, with just one email sent a month in advance.”
The actual gas supply network is run by the state, no matter who your provider is.
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