the state asks for the “solidarity” of suppliers with businesses

published Wednesday 05 October 2022 at 15:42

The state on Wednesday called for the “solidarity” of gas and electricity suppliers with businesses, while promising to provide its own guarantee to facilitate the signing of contracts, in a context of “delusional prices”.

Major energy companies, including EDF, TotalEnergies and Engie, had been summoned to Bercy by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who last week accused them of “not gambling” by inflating the prices offered to SMEs.

Today, 1.5 million very small companies can benefit from the tariff shield, which limits the increase in energy costs, Bercy recalled, but others are offered offers at the time of renewal of the contract at “scandalous prices”.

“Too many unacceptable cases have arrived: invoices with exorbitant prices, contractual conditions unilaterally revised, insufficient visibility on contracts”, underlined the minister at the end of this meeting.

To prevent companies from finding themselves without an energy contract, the State will bear the “risk premium” required of companies by suppliers to guarantee their eventual non-payment. “The state will set up a public guarantee on the bank guarantees that suppliers require from their customers when signing contracts,” explained Bruno Le Maire during a press conference with several ministers including Agnès Pannier-Runacher (Energy transition).

The tenant of Bercy stressed that this is a “fundamental and totally innovative element in energy contracts”.

“The principle is that the state bears part of the risk in the event of customer default,” a ministry source told AFP. Objective: “to lower the cost of energy and allow more companies to access more offers”.

– Price limits –

Invited to participate in the “solidarity” effort, suppliers must in return commit themselves and observe good practices. The main players in the energy sector have committed themselves to a charter to “make at least one commercial proposal to any targeted professional consumer who requests it”, according to this code of good conduct consulted by AFP.

In the charter, the energy suppliers promised in particular to warn customers who are not eligible for the regulated electricity tariff “at least two months in advance” before the renewal or termination of their contract.

Among the suppliers and producers summoned to Bercy were also the French Electricity Union (UFE), the National Association of Retail Energy Operators (ANODE), the Independent French Electricity and Gas Association (AFIEG) and representatives of local distribution company.

The minister warned that if “abusive behavior” persisted, it would be “sanctioned”, based on investigations by the Fraud Repression and the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE).

To help companies better decipher the offers, the CRE, the energy policeman, will also publish a “reference price” for electricity on its website in the next few days, updated every week. This information for companies with fewer than 250 employees will be broken down according to different professional consumer profiles.

“We will not disappoint you”, promised the Minister of Economy to “all businesses” of all sizes, recalling that a 3 billion euro envelope was available at the one-stop shop.

“We will not allow rents to be built on delusional energy prices”, also warns Le Maire, describing in detail the European mechanism aimed at limiting the price of a megawatt hour to 180 euros for producers.

Mr. Le Maire explained that the money earned on the market by energy companies beyond this limit of 180 euros per MWh would be used by the government for the benefit of aid to businesses and communities affected by large increases in the energy bill.

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