these Frenchmen excluded from the customs shield

Faced with sky-high energy prices, some alternative suppliers have decided to deindex their regulated tariff offerings to match wholesale market prices. Result: some subscribers’ bills explode.

Freezing regulated gas prices, limiting the rise in electricity prices to 4% … Inserted in October last year in the light of the rise in energy, the price shield has made it possible to maintain the purchasing power of millions of French people. However, not everyone could benefit from it. Starting with some customers at alternative suppliers who saw their contract changed in spite of themselves. It resulted in an explosion of bills.

Romain is one of them. In 2019, this Ardéchois signed an electricity contract with the green energy supplier Planète OUI. For two years, “everything went pretty well,” he told BFM Business. To the point that he decided, when he moved in November 2021, to sign a new “gas and electricity” contract with the same operator for 120 euros a month.

But in January last year, the Planète OUI, which was facing sky-high prices in the wholesale markets, was put on hold. A few weeks later, Romain receives a final invoice from the supplier. Total required: 1887.14 euros for the period November-February. “I was shocked by the amount on this invoice. It has been a monthly salary,” he emphasizes, explaining that he “rejected direct debit” and asked about “changing supplier”.

+483%

If Romain’s contract was indexed to regulated tariffs (TRV), Planète OUI seems to have decided on its own to deindex its offer to model it according to the much higher prices in the wholesale markets. “No one warned us. If they had done so, I would have immediately changed supplier. They refused the customs shield,” Romain laments.

But his misfortune does not end there. In March, the Montpellier-based supplier Mint Energies Planète took over OUI’s customer portfolio, ie 120,000 contracts. This time, Romain’s new monthly payments are estimated at 700 euros a month from 1 May, or an increase of 483%. Like him, other customers are informed of a sudden increase in their deadlines via email, citing “the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the impact of this dramatic context on electricity prices and gas”.

While this may seem debatable, this process, which aims to remove indexation of contracts from regulated tariffs, is not illegal, provided that customers have been informed of this change at least one month before its application. Which seems to be the case with Mint Energies. Yet the Montpellier supplier has aroused the anger of its customers, whose statements have been multiplied on social networks.

At the urging of all parties, Mint Energies ended up acknowledging that certain increases were undoubtedly associated with “errors”. When the Planète OUI contracts were taken over, “part of the migration was painful. Mistakes were made. For some, the reference consumption was not the right one. People were contacted to make refunds or compensations”, the supplier states to The Midi broadcast.

Customers signed up for Mint even before Planète OUI’s bankruptcy are also concerned: “For certain contracts, a recalculation of consumption has been made and it is possible that mistakes have been made. We updated the deadlines on April 5. The sharp price increases can be explained “We are investigating all this, but all those affected will be reimbursed,” says the operator.

Should Romain find his monthly payments of 120 euros with Mint during his next final invoice, his complaint to the Planète OUI may take longer before he is satisfied. And with good reason, before initiating a class action lawsuit with consumer associations, we must “await the return of the legal representative”.

Meanwhile, Romain has set up a group that currently brings together nearly 150 former customers of Planète OUI. In the absence of being able to sue the bankrupt company, “we would like to turn to BCM Energy”, its Lyon holding company, he states. And to add: “We are fighting not only against rising tariffs, but also to save people in difficult economic situations, in fuel poverty”.

No tariff shield for Electricité de Strasbourg subscribers

In Strasbourg, customers of Electricité de Strasbourg (ÉS), which has signed a gas supply contract, are also angry. According to France Bleu, the supplier says it cannot use the government’s tariff screen. As a result, its contracts are indexed at wholesale market prices and subscribers can hardly turn to another operator, ÉS has a monopoly in the Alsace capital.

As a result, bills are rising sharply. A situation that prompted Strasbourg Mayor Jeanne Barseghian and Eurometropolis President Pia Imbs to warn Prime Minister Jean Castex and the director of ÉS Energies to ask the latter to “translate into a commercial effort the measures announced by Matignon”. to all its offers of gas supply “.

“We ask for your commitment to keep your promise given to all households that heat with natural gas, by offering a solution similar to the tariff shield that allows consumers who have subscribed to an offer that excludes TRVg to enjoy “it is a matter of justice and social justice,” the two elected representatives wrote in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and passed on by France Bleu.

“Particularly harmful processes”

The Association for the Defense of Consumers, CLCV (Consumption, Housing and the Living Environment) decided to lodge a complaint in November against four suppliers, including Mint, for condemning the “procedures that are particularly harmful to their customers”. In general, CLCV points to the practices of a dozen “small operators” who were “very discounted” before the crisis and weigh around “10% of the market”, explains François Carlier, general manager of CLCV.

Since the price increase, the latter has gone either to classic increases of “in the order of 25-30%” or to “indexation of wholesale market prices”, he explains. Most often by notifying customers via email, at least one month in advance as required by law. A process that does not really fall in François Carlier’s taste. Firstly because the email can go unnoticed in the stream of messages sent to inboxes. So because “the title of the email is often not very explicit. For example, ‘Your offer changes’ to announce a 25% increase. Morale: If you choose one of these operators, the practical advice is to open your emails “, adds the CEO of CLCV.

Above all, the association, which has received more than 400 complaints from Mint customers, wants to defend in court that de-indexing a TRV offer is not a simple contract change and that an email may not be enough to announce it. : “We believe that when we go from an offer indexed to TRV to an offer indexed to wholesale market prices, it is not a contract change, but a new contract”, according to François Carlier.

During this period of sky-high energy prices, he advises customers to return to the regulated tariff for electricity to have “contractual security” or even turn to “the big operators”. For gas, customers can no longer return to the regulated tariff, which will disappear in July 2023. However, the offers of the major operators are still the safest there as well, according to François Carlier.

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