P R E S S R E L E A S E
2019 Activities Report for the Federal Ombudsman Service for Energy
During the 2019 operational year, the Federal Ombudsman for Energy received a total of 7,055 complaints (5% more than 2018 and 22% more than 2017), of which 64.15% came from Dutch speakers, 35.83% from French speakers and 0.02 % from German speakers.
According to the Ombudsman Service, this permanent increase in the number of complaints is due to:
- energy suppliers’ commercial practices (increase of 56%) and unwanted supplier changes (increase of 50%) that may result from dubious sales practices;
- the transparency of energy prices (increase of 21%) and the payment problems that can accompany it (increase of almost 25%).
The types of complaints in 2019 mainly concern disputes about:
- sales and market practices of energy suppliers (20.5%);
- meter problems such as the processing and rectification of meter reading data during the annual reading or estimation, in the event of a defective meter, when moving, or vacancy of a house, etc. (16%);
- the price transparency or the clarity of the prices and rates applied (12.8%);
- payment problems with the payment of energy invoices such as instalment plans, (lack of) repayments, administrative costs, payment via direct debit, guarantee schemes, (threat of) cancellation of an energy contract or closures due to default of payment (12.5%);
- billing problems such as the (late) issuance and readability of energy invoices (12.4%);
- problems with change of supplier such as unwanted supplier changes and the charging of fixed fees for a full (first) contractual year when the energy contract is terminated early (8.9%).
The other complaints received were related to problems with the quality of customer service (3.8%) and with the organisation of the regional energy markets such as social and environmental public service obligations (7.3%), end of energy contracts, drops and disconnecting as a result of non-payment (3%), grid connections (1.4%) and power failures (0.7%).
Of the admissible complaints (41 % of the complaints), 82.2% were closed with a positive result via an amicable settlement. This means the complaint was fully addressed to the satisfaction of the customer.
This positive result from the closed files resulted in a total amount of €716,697 financial compensation or rectifications or an average of €312 per admissible complaint that was closed in 2019.
In addition to 45 recommendations addressed to energy companies , the Ombudsman Service also formulated policy recommendations to policy makers or the federal parliament https://www.ombudsmanenergie.be/nl/nieuws/political-recommandation-19013-31-december-2019-memorandum .
Some of these proposals are very timely and may address the socio-economic impact of the corona crisis on households and businesses, such as:
- Extend the payment term for energy invoices to at least 30 calendar days.
- No administrative costs or interest charged with a repayment plan.
- Extend the beneficiaries of the (automatic) social price to the same categories as the beneficiaries of the social heating fund (persons with the right to increased health insurance contributions, persons with a limited income up to €19,566.25 gross taxable per year or with debt problems)
- Provide the same protection to SMEs whose annual energy consumption is up to 50,000 kWh of electricity and 100,000 kWh of natural gas as that provided to consumers, such as a 14-day reflection period for revoking new energy contracts, no refusal or cancellation of an energy contract due to (temporary) lack of creditworthiness or (temporary) energy debts, the obligatory annual communication of the cheapest rate according to the consumption of the SME.
For more information, see the summary available at
Ombudsman for Energy