Energy prices frozen till the end of the year

The Belgian Government has decided that energy prices will not be allowed to rise in line with the index from April until the end of the year. In practice this means that energy prices have been frozen.

The government hopes that this will make gas and electricity cheaper for consumers. Belgian energy prices have been rising faster than in neighboruring countries.

Initially it's only consumers with a variable energy price contract that will benefit from the measure. Belgian Economy Minister Vande Lanotte suggested that the freeze could spare consumers from a 5% rise this year.

The government is also looking at further measures that will make it possible to rein in energy price increases. Distribution costs are to be cut. People changing energy supplier will not face any charges either.

The Economy Ministry says that Belgian energy prices rose by 17% last year and that's significantly more than in neighbouring countries where only a 10% increase was recorded. Prices in Belgium for processed foods, services and industrial goods have increased faster than in neighbouring countries too.

Arresting the fast rise in energy prices should mean that the index that keeps public sector wages and benefits in line with inflation won’t rise as sharply either. This may help to appease those calling for the index system to be taken out of action for a while.