Belgium’s consumer association has urged the government to extend Covid relief for household energy bills beyond the deadline set in spring.
Ministers across the federal country’s authorities are currently arguing over how to ease the burden for millions of people facing huge electricity and gas hikes.
The country’s energy regulator is due to report shortly about whether suppliers are ramping up “windfall profits”. Test Achats, the Belgian equivalent of Which? in the UK, said that families face a potential six-fold leap in bills unless Covid-related help is extended from April.
“Today, some 900,000 homes benefit from this relief,” the consumer rights champion said on its website. “If nothing is done… lots of households will be plunged into energy precarity,” it added.
A social tariff has long been applied to individuals and families who qualify under means-testing; this was extended to take account of the impact of lockdown and homeworking since the coronavirus pandemic first hit. But Test Achats fear that the easing of public health measures will also see the financial assistance offered to these households come to an end.
Belgian finance minister urges quick cut to VAT on energy
To ease the financial squeeze, Belgian Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem told lawmakers that he wants the government to offer a quick fix by slashing VAT on rapidly-rising energy bills. This would be done in two phases.
He said a temporary reduction from 21% to 6% VAT would be “the quickest” way to offset fears of vastly diminished household spending power but added that an “intelligent and lasting” solution was needed to address growing political argument over the issue.
The Belgian consumers association has warned of a six-fold increase for families hardest hit by structural changes in electricity and gas production. Van Peteghem hoped “that a decision will be taken swiftly so that the ordinary citizen gets the help required.”