Over 300,000 households offered reduced advance energy payments

Over 300,000 households offered reduced advance energy payments
Some 300,000 households have already been contacted for a change in their advance payments. Credit: Belga/ Nicolas Maeterlinck

More than 300,000 households have received offers from energy suppliers to lower advance payments in favour of a better match to the current energy prices, following an initiative by the Federal Government.

Since December, energy prices have been falling, but households are still feeling the spikes of six months ago. Three weeks ago, Belgium's Federal Government and energy suppliers reached an agreement to speed up the reduction of advance energy payments for people who need it most.

"When energy prices fall, the decrease should be visible on consumers' advance bills as soon as possible. If advance bills can rise when prices are high, they must also be able to fall when prices on the market are lower," said State Secretary for Consumer Affairs Alexia Bertrand in a statement.

Since the proposal was agreed upon with the industry, 300,000 households have already been contacted either directly by their energy supplier or through a more general campaign to make a change to their advance payments.

In Belgium, most consumers receive their advance payment bill on a monthly or quarterly basis. Those bills are an estimate based on the previous year's meter readings or the consumption history of the past three years – allowing customers to evenly spread the cost of their energy bills over the entire year.

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In the short term, another 200,000 customers who subscribed to variable energy contracts when prices were very high, between August and November 2022, will be offered a change in their advance bill. The protocol commits energy suppliers to proactively contact their customers with an adjusted advance bill by 31 March.

From now on, as part of the protocol, energy suppliers will act faster to "control consumer budgets and personalise their communications." They will also calculate, at least three times a year, whether the down payment requested is still justified.

Finally, energy suppliers will also inform consumers about the parameters applicable to their bills so that consumers themselves can better understand and check their advance payments.

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