Thousands of customers have electricity provider unknowingly switched

Thousands of customers have electricity provider unknowingly switched
Credit: Belga.

The Energy Ombudsman Service received 13,300 complaints in the first half of the year after clients' power providers were changed without their knowledge, Het Laatste Nieuws is reporting.

In the first six months of 2022, the Energy Ombudsman Service was inundated with complaints from customers about their electricity supplier.

In the first six months of 2022, their office had received over 13,300 complaints, nearly 5,000 more than in the whole of last year.

‘Mystery switch’

The reason for this skyrocketing figure is because of a so-called ‘mystery switch,’ with an average of 90 consumers each month having their power supplier changed without their knowledge.

Eric Houtman, a spokesperson for the service, explained to the Flemish paper that customers had received a message from their supplier that their contract had been terminated, without having requested it and without knowing who their new supplier is.

Technical glitch

According to him, the network operator Fluvius's new IT system was to blame for this error.

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Each customer is assigned an EAN code, which is a set of 18 numbers that identifies each electricity or natural gas connection.

Houtman said that if an error was made when inputting the code, the system would not recognise the customer.

"If a supplier associates the name of a new client with the EAN code of another customer, the latter’s provider is incorrectly switched," Houtman noted. "I suspect that there are too few control mechanisms in the new system to ensure that a given EAN code corresponds to the correct name and address."

What can customers do?

Houtman has asked that these clients contact their "previous" suppliers to clarify the error.

"Above all," he urged clients, "do not pay any bill from your 'new' provider; you have not signed a contract with them, thus you are not obligated to pay."

In any case, the former supplier will be required to reopen the customer’s contract.

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