Customers warned against cutting monthly energy payments with larger bills looming
Energy companies report that more and more of their customers are reducing their monthly advance payments on gas and electricity. This has the potential to backfire in the long run, when customers receive a larger annual bill, according to the AD.
Many people are struggling to pay their skyrocketing energy bills. A new energy contract costs around 4,000 euros more than it would have a year ago and inflation is affecting middle-income homes' ability to afford energy. As a result, many people are opting to reduce their monthly installment amounts to cope with the prices. Energy companies Vattenfall, Eneco and Essent say this is not always a good idea.
"We see that an increasing number of customers are adjusting or lowering their monthly amount, while according to our data an increase is in order," Robert Portier, spokesperson for Vattenfall, told the AD. “The result is that a large part will have to pay extra when they receive their annual accounts.”
Around 10 percent of customers with Vattenfall pay 200 euros too few per month. This can add up at the end to a bill of 800 euros or more, Portier said. Customers at Eneco and Essent are also overly optimistic about their energy usage.
"Some of the customers do indeed reduce their advance, which is unwise," Niels Stet of Eneco told the AD. “They base their payments on the lower consumption in the summer.”
However, Stet said energy companies are available to help customers find solutions, such as providing an installment option or pointing people toward debt counseling. The number of customers Vatenfall refers to debt counseling, for instance, has doubled in a year.
But social assistance organization NVVK said the real issue is that people are having trouble making ends meet. “The underlying problem is purchasing power. In recent years, life has become much more expensive, from rent to groceries. Expensive energy is now added. You cannot solve this with a payment arrangement," said chairman Marco Florijn.
Florijn believes the Cabinet should find a way to aid low- and middle-income earners this autumn, so that they are not hit with overwhelming energy bills. In the long run, it is important that people have more money in their pockets –– for example, through raising the minimum wage, the organization said.