Gas bills for several Strasbourg residents have been skyrocketing since October. According to their supplier Électricité de Strasbourg (ÉS), these customers are not affected by the tariff plate. The latter, feeling trapped in a vise, have turned to a consumer association.
Despite the introduction of tariff protection for regulated gas sales tariffs (TRV) by Jean Castex in October 2021, some Strasbourg residents have seen their bills skyrocket. Unconvinced by the answers from their supplier, Électricité de Strasbourg (ÉS), around fifty customers have joined forces and are supported by a consumer association.
653€. Here is what Kaïdre Bendjama read on his gas bill on January 10, 2022: “An astronomical amount compared to the same period last year”. This resident of the Montagne Verte district is one of those Strasbourg residents who had the unpleasant surprise of seeing the amount soar.
In order to counteract the spectacular rise in gas prices, the government blocked them in October 2021 by setting up a “tariff shield”. Thus, customers who have subscribed to the Regulated Sales Tariff (TRV) for gas have not experienced any tariff increases. Except that since 2019 new customers are automatically subject to market prices that are freely set by the various providers. In fact, TRVs will disappear in 2023.
“When Jean Castex introduced this shield, he could only do so at regulated rates, explains François Carlier, general delegate of the consumer association Consumption Housing Framework of Life (CLCV), whose customers were approached by ÉS. But the government has since extended the protective shield to consumers who have subscribed to a market offering.
An extension introduced in the Finance Act 2022: “However, the government cannot force suppliers to apply this protective shield to market prices. It can only advise them to do so in exchange for financial compensation.”says Francois Carlier.
“Most suppliers in France accepted, but not ÉS”, completes the general delegate of the association. Why ? “From what ÉS told me, when the Prime Minister set the prices, their market prices were higher than the regulated price.explains Francois Carlier.
As a result, the bills of ÉS’ customers who have been subjected to a market offer are piling up. A situation “as hell” for CLCV: “We tell them to look elsewhere, but ÉS has a virtual monopoly in Strasbourg! There is nothing else.”
In early March, Kaïdre Bendjama and his partner wrote to Électricité de Strasbourg to request the application of the lockdown measures on their gas bill. The supplier replies to this “[leur] Contract does not fall within the scope of customs protection”.
“The crisis will remain and it is evident that the advice proposed by ÉS as a solution, to consume a little less, is not enough and is already being used by most consumers. We are in a liberalized market in terms of legislation, but we remain captive to the facts of ÉS’ business policy”laments Kaïdre Bendjama.
At the end of March 2022, Electricité de Strasbourg wrote to the couple asking them to settle their late payment. Contacted by France 3 Alsace, the people of Strasbourg indicate that they have chosen to pay the amount corresponding to the tariff of the customs plate that they are requesting the application of, ie 74% of the amount due.
In mid-April, the couple received a second, this time clearer, letter from their supplier. ÉS demands the remaining 26% of them before May 4, 2022, under threat of interrupting their gas between April and October: “This cutting threat is a particularly aggressive move”the couple reacts.
We are obligated to do what we are told.Electricity from Strasbourg (ES)
Contacted by France 3 Alsace, ÉS replies that the people who consider themselves injured do not meet the conditions of customs protection: “All conditions have been decided at government level. We are obliged to follow what we have been told.”, comments the company. ÉS recalls that Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are available on its website to find out whether a customer is eligible for this protection or not.
At the end of April, around fifty people came forward following the publication of a Facebook post warning of high gas prices in Strasbourg. The CLCV association wrote to the Ministry of Ecological Transition to clarify this confusion. The energy ombudsman was also caught: “Now the question arises about next winter. The government wants to extend the protective shield until the end of 2022. But the situation cannot drag on, especially as prices will continue to rise.”predicts the General Delegate of the CLCV.
Kaïdre Bendjama invites all ÉS customers to check their gas bill and has put together a document summarizing the context and their approach. If you think you are affected by the situation, you can contact him at the following address: [email protected]