Compare and get advice: a safe bet when addressing your energy bill. In fact, according to CREG, the Commission for Electricity and Gas Regulation, two million Belgian households have opted for the ten most expensive energy contracts on the electricity market and 1.2 million for the ten most expensive contracts on the gas market. So can we really do without energy saving advice?
While prices have fallen on average by 10% in 2020, more than 1.4 million Belgians have not changed their electricity and gas contracts since 2007. So between those who have not changed their energy contract and those who have not opted for the most favourable offers, there are millions of Belgian households who have not benefited from the reduction in prices. According to CREG, in the Walloon Region, these savings could be up to 340 euros for electricity and 200 euros for gas. So really the explanation behind this lack of change or these bad choices is essential. And according to the expertise of the national regulator, it is the complexity of the administrative procedures and the contract terms that are to blame.
A lack of transparency and understanding are the main culprits behind this failure to achieve substantial savings.
Despite the fact that price is one of the main factors for considering a change in plan, not everything depends on it and a tempting promotion is not enough. In Belgium, consumers are faced with hundreds of available products (electricity and gas) and around 724 rate plans. The overwhelming number of plans dissuades many households from changing supplier. And this comparison is made all the more difficult for households with a dormant contract that is no longer listed by price comparison websites. This winter, CREG estimated that 500.000 Belgian households still have one of the 14.596 dormant products (electricity and gas), which are several hundred euros more expensive per year than active products.
For Antoine Dumont, manager of energyprice.be, the only comparison website accredited by CREG, the fear of change and the inadequate choices of consumers not assisted by an expert are not surprising. “The industry is quite complex and consumers need help to gain clarity. Some advertisements may appear attractive when in reality they are not as good as they seem. Our advisers know how to identify which plans offer promotions or not. We strive to offer support by comparing all the plans on the market, unlike door-to-door sellers. By talking to consumers, our advisers can guide them to a product that is truly right for them.” Moreover, of all the energy contract changes observed in our analysis, 85% of households trusted our advisers and were thus able to make an average saving of 290 euros on their gaz and electricity bill.”
A recent analysis conducted by energyprice.be reached the same conclusion as CREG. Belgian consumers struggle to make the right choice when they are on their own in front of their screens. Out of 2.678 energy contract changes recorded in October 2020, nearly 73% of consumers did not opt for an offer that was deemed “suitable”. Conversely, almost 8 out of 10 households chose an offer that met their needs when this choice was made with the help of an adviser. Thus, there is no more room for doubts: expert help is necessary when it comes to comparing and choosing an energy plan that meets qualitative criteria.
As part of this study, the experts at energyprice.be analysed energy market developments – where we are seeing historically low prices at the moment – and identified several qualitative criteria to determine what a suitable offer is. Thus, to choose an energy contract that is deemed “suitable”, the ideal offer must meet the following five criteria:
The above combination of qualitative criteria was established on the basis of a consumer with a moderate risk profile and average consumption. As a result, consumers with a higher risk profile, with very low consumption or open to stricter payment terms (quarterly or annually for example) may, like 23% of assisted consumers, prefer an energy contract that does not meet the criteria of a suitable plan selected for this study.