'Regain control': Test Achats calls for more fixed-rate energy contracts

'Regain control': Test Achats calls for more fixed-rate energy contracts
Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Few energy suppliers in Belgium offer a fixed-rate contract for electricity and gas. Meanwhile, consumers often have difficulty understanding variable contracts according to the consumer rights organisation Test Achats, which has called for change.

In Belgium, households are fans of fixed-rate contracts because it offers certainty.  The percentage of households with a fixed-rate energy contract has traditionally been a lot higher than those with a variable one, however, most energy suppliers stopped offering fixed-rate tariffs following the enormous price fluctuations for oil and gas catalysed by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Luminus once again started offering fixed-rate energy contracts as a result of stabilising energy prices and continued high demand for fixed-rate contracts, and energy provider Mega will start doing so from March for existing customers.

However, there are still few such contracts on the market, something Test Achats has long deplored.

"After all, fixed-rate contracts have the advantage of clarity. Families can easily check whether an error has crept into their final bill," the organisation noted in a statement. Such a contract advises customers in advance which rate applies, meaning they can easily understand their final invoice.

"But for now, just one supplier offers them, otherwise there are only variable contracts. And who knows how the electricity price is calculated on a variable contract? Who checks whether their final bill is correct? This must change."

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The organisation has launched a petition demanding that all suppliers again include at least one fixed-rate contract in their offer, and at an affordable price. It also called for a "drastic simplification" of the formulas for calculating energy prices for variable contracts.

Test Achats added that every consumer should be able to check at any time how much they are paying for their energy, for example through a tool that energy suppliers themselves make available.

"In fact, we ask nothing more or less than that consumers regain control over their energy bills, which seems essential to us given the current situation," said Laura Clays, Test Achat's spokesperson.

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