How to contest increased or ‘catch up’ energy bills in France

There are several options which may result in a partial refund or a recalculation of a bill

Energy bills may come with unexpected hikes but it is possible to contest them

Homeowners in France can sometimes see energy costs increase significantly after certain periods during which they may have benefited from a lower ‘fixed’ rate. 

Whilst many customers have been protected from excessive price rises in recent years by the government’s ‘energy shields’ (bouclier tarifaire) which was put in place after the start of the war in Ukraine, bills have since begun to rise for many households.

Electricity contracts in France are either ‘fixed-rate’ or regulated tariffs, where customers pay the same amount each month for a certain number of months before prices are recalibrated, or they are ‘indexed’ and linked to market rates. 

In the case of the latter, your supplier must inform you one month in advance if prices are changing due to price shifts in the market.

Gas contracts are either indexed to a market price, with monthly changes declared by the Commission de régulation de l’énergie (CRE), or tarif réglementé, in which updates are published twice a year. 

Unlike electricity price changes, suppliers of gas energy are under no obligation to inform users of changes to market rates, but must inform you one month in advance of any change to their index prices.

Electricity contracts that are paid monthly will see prices altered at least once a year to take into account actual consumption compared to the forecasted usage on which the monthly price had been set.

This ‘régularisation’ can result in suppliers asking for an extra payment if you used more electricity than expected. 

Read more: You do not have to pay ‘catch-up’ French energy bills if sent too late

How to contest price rises 

If your energy bill is increased and you believe the change is too high it is possible to contest it.

It is also possible to contest a régularisation bill.

To do so, the first step is to contact your energy supplier for more information. 

You can call their customer service team, but in the case of a dispute it may be better to have a written paper trail. 

You can achieve this by sending a letter with acknowledgement of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) citing your concerns and querying the price. 

You can ask the supplier to recalculate your bill (if you have not yet paid it) or refund the difference if you have partially or fully paid.

Read more: Six tips for comparing energy suppliers in France to lower bills

If this goes unanswered, you can write an official complaint to Sollen, France’s National Energy Ombudsman. 

This has to be made between two and ten months after informing the supplier of your concern, and can be done if you believe the response to have been unsatisfactory, or if you did not receive any reply. 

You can either file your complaint on the Sollen website, or send a letter to the address below: 

Médiateur national de l’énergie

Libre réponse n° 59252

75443 PARIS Cedex 09

You should hear within three weeks of your complaint whether the case has been accepted. If it is, the ombudsman will try to come to an agreement with the supplier over the price changes. 

FInally, if the ombudsman cannot find an amicable solution, you can take your supplier to court. 

You can send a letter to your local tribunal court citing your complaint, providing proof that you have tried to resolve the issue using the previous two options. The court may then consider your case.