Mine energyThe number of complaints about energy suppliers increased sharply in the past year. This is apparent from the evolution of the complaints indicator of the Flemish energy regulator VREG and the Federal Energy Ombudsman Service. While nine of the eleven energy suppliers achieved a maximum score of five stars in April 2022, only two players are still succeeding in that aim a year later. Mijnenergie.be goes by the numbers.
By Kurt Deman, in collaboration with Mijnenergie
The past turbulent energy year clearly left its mark on the services provided by energy suppliers. The complaints indicator is based on the number of second-line complaints that the VREG and the Federal Ombudsman Service received in the past four quarters, per 5,000 household customers.
Complaints do not have to be well-founded to count. A complaint does not necessarily mean that the energy supplier has made a mistake. It does indicate that the supplier is not fully successful in explaining to the customer why the first-line complaint was unfounded.
More complaints = fewer stars
The more complaints, the worse the complaints indicator and the fewer stars the supplier gets.
In April 2020, Bolt Energie, Ecopower, Electricity Company Merksplas, Eneco, Energie.be, Engie Electrabel, Luminus, Octa+ and TotalEnergies succeeded in limiting the number of complaints to a maximum of three per 5,000 families.
A year later, only electricity company Merksplas and Ecopower retained the maximum score of five stars. Bolt Energie, Engie Electrabel and Energie.be only gave one star.
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Maximum score, but also customer stop
But who are those two lesser-known players?
Electricity company Merksplas sells electricity and natural gas under the commercial brand name Ebem. The municipality of Merksplas is the sole shareholder. For electrical power, the company relies on decentralized production units and independent trading parties, which means that Ebem is the only one that does not depend on the established producers.
To ensure service and limit purchasing risks, Ebem introduced a customer stop in September 2022. This has recently been lifted, but there is still a (limited) waiting time for new customers.
Ecopower is the largest energy cooperative in the country and supplies electricity from its own wind farms and from friendly cooperatives. Since Ecopower has reached the maximum number of customers that the company can supply with green electricity from citizens, a temporary customer stop applies.
Complaints of many kinds
An earlier analysis by the Federal Ombudsman Service for Energy shows that the nature of the complaints varies.
In addition to the problem of high advance invoices, which now seems to have disappeared somewhat, in 2022 16.2 percent of the complaints concerned problems with the meter reading, for example in the event of a death or relocation. The Federal Ombudsman’s Service also received many complaints about invoicing problems, for example due to late drawing up of the invoice.
These problems are by no means over today and, according to the ombudsman, can be attributed to the new IT system that all energy suppliers have been using for a year and a half. The ombudsman hopes for improvement, but fears that the software problems will not be resolved this year. Fluvius is committed to ensuring that all files that have stalled on their side will be resolved this year.
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