Record numbers of households in Flanders changed their energy tariff last year as consumer prices began to steadily climb, according to Flemish newspaper De Tijd.
A record 760,000 Flemish households changed their electricity supplier last year, 6% more than the last peak in 2019, De Tijd states, citing an unreleased report by the Flemish energy watchdog VREG. In other words, more than one in four households switched to a new provider last year.
Some consumers saw their bills rise rapidly last year due to high energy prices caused by Russia’s stronghold of Europe’s gas supply. Flemish electricity bills nearly doubled, and gas bills nearly tripled last year.
In September last year, household electricity prices in Belgium were the fifth highest in the world, costing €0.291 per kWh.
Flemish consumers were no less impressed by their gas bills. 29% of households, or 570,000 different families, switched to a new supplier for their gas supply.
Some of those who did not chose to switch last year have been stung heavily this year. A household of seven people in Brussels received an energy bill of €9,338. The year before, they paid an advance of just €94 a month based on their annual consumption.
Commercial rates on energy have also been heavily affected. 30% of businesses changed their electricity supplier last year, and 40% changed their gas supplier.
Record numbers of consumers are making use of the Flemish energy watchdog’s price comparator tool to calculate which energy tariff is most suited to their needs. This is leading consumers to rethink their household bills, and switch tariffs more regularly.
Involuntary supplier changes
Not every consumer switched voluntarily though. Many energy suppliers went bust last winter, which meant many households were forcibly moved onto new energy tariffs.
Essent, a Dutch energy company, quickly pulled out of the Belgian energy market last year. As a result, more than 164,000 households woke up to the news that they were being forced to switch to EDF Luminus, the Belgian arm of the French company, EDF.
Likewise, when Vlaamse Energieleverancier and Watz went under in December, an additional 100,000 customers were moved over to energy company Fluvius.
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There is usually a peak on consumers wishing to switch energy providers at the beginning of the year, in advance of the renewal of contracts. In the first two months of the year, 220,000 customers switched their electricity provider, and 150,000 changed their gas provider.
In 2022, there will undoubtedly be an even greater number of consumers looking to switch providers. Despite a government reduction on VAT for energy bills, down from 21% to 6%, energy bills in Belgium are still at record highs.
To date, no energy supplier, apart from Luminus, is willing to issue fixed-price contracts due to the volatility of the energy. This has forced providers to be more competitive, and consumers to be more flexible.