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Secretary of State says that energy suppliers must modify advance payment demands more quickly if prices fall significantly

The Federal Secretary of State responsible for Consumer Protection Eva De Bleeker (Flemish liberal) has said in an interview with VRT News that she wants energy suppliers to reduce the level of the advance payments made by their customers more quickly if there is a significant fall in the prize of energy on the wholesale energy markets. Ms De Bleeker was speaking in an interview with VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’.

In recent months, gas and electricity prices have broken record after record. Many people have seen the advance payments they make for electricity and gas go through the roof. Although the price of gas remains high, it has fallen sharply during the past two months.

Eva De Bleeker told VRT News that she wants this to be reflected more quickly in the advance payments the energy companies charge their customers. The Federal Secretary of State says that the advance payments should reflect as closely as possible what a consumer’s final energy bill will be. It cannot be the case that customers bankroll energy companies with excessive prepayment charges.

Meanwhile, Ms De Bleeker says that the energy suppliers have responded to her call to improve their customer service facilities. Energy suppliers have long been criticised due to the difficulty many customers encounter when they try to contact them. Customers that do succeed in contacting their supplier often complain that they are unable to provide them with sufficient information concerning their advance payment bills.

The Federal Economy Department has received more than 1,600 complaints so far this year about energy companies. It has launched investigations into 7 suppliers.

As we reported previously, last weekend Ms De Bleeker gave the energy suppliers one week to do something about their poor customer service. The Federal Secretary of State says that since then the suppliers have acted by drawing up plans to address the issues raised. 

However, a plan alone is not enough. "It is not enough that there is an action plan on paper. I want to see the plan become effective in the very short term. If it is not acted on, I will continue to take action through the courts."

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