Electricity in France
- Opening an Electricity Account in France
- Getting a New Electricity Supply
- French Electricity Tariffs
- Your French Electricity Bill
- Assistance with Payment of Electricity Bills
- Changing Your Electricity Supplier
- Complaints Procedures
6. Changing Your French Electricity Supplier
It is possible for households to move from EDF to an alternative supplier.
There are now 160 electricity suppliers in France, although not all of whom offer a supply to domestic customers, some preferring to supply only commercial customers and some do not operate on a national basis.
The profile of these suppliers is very diverse. There are the homegrown giants, such as Engie and Total; the outsider, Direct Energie (acquired by Total in 2018), born in 2003 and now number three in the market, with 2 million customers; foreign heavyweight energy companies, such as the Italian ENI; and small ambitious new ones, such as Cdiscount, Enercoop, ekWateur and Butagaz; and some who focus more on renewable energy sources such as Plüm Énergie, Énergie d’ici, EkWateur, Énergies du Santerre, and Ilek.
EDF is losing around 100,000 customers a month to competitors, but the differences in tariffs remain marginal. In a study carried out by the electricity regulator, the CRE, in 2019 it found that whilst the average annual bill for a household on the regulated tarif de base was €485, for the lowest alternative supplier it was €457, a difference of 6%.
While the tariffs applied by EDF are regulated by the government, private operators are free to set their own tariffs. By option, EDF also offer a market tariff.
There is widespread opposition from consumer associations in France to the introduction of market tariffs, and it is universally agreed by these associations that the regulated tariffs offer greater consumer protection. We published an article on the issue which you can find at Electricity Competition 'a failure'.
According to EDF, 84% of their customers remain on the regulated tariff. These tariffs rise each year, broadly in line with inflation. Since 1996, at constant prices, the tariffs have actually fallen.
One of the principal reasons why EDF has been able to protect its market is through the regulated tariffs. These tariffs are set by the CRE so the competitors can compete against EDF, but the companies themselves say that they serve to protect EDF, reduce competition, and make it more expensive for the consumer.
The French Conseil d’Etat has ruled that the regulated tariffs were contrary to European law, but the government has yet to act on that ruling.
Nevertheless, if you wish to change from EDF, then the transfer of your account to the new supplier is handled entirely by that supplier.
These private suppliers do not generally have a local branch network, so you would normally need to make the application on-line.
Given the political controls exerted over EDF on regulated tariffs there are probably fewer risks in supply in having them as your electricity supplier.
Thus, we suspect that if problems arise with your supply, they are likely to be resolved more quickly if you are a client of EDF. While responsibility for dealing with supply problems resides with a publicly controlled body called Electricité Réseau Distribution France (ERDF), ERDF is actually a subsidiary of EDF, themselves majority State owned.
Even though tariffs may be fixed for a specific period that does not oblige a customer signing up to such a contract to remain with the supplier for this period; the obligation of a fixed price only commits the supplier.
You can find more information about alternative suppliers and their tariffs at comparative prices.
The French energy ombudsman has expressed concern at consumer complaints about the sales methods employed by secondary energy suppliers, which you can read about in our article Abusive Canvassing by French Energy Suppliers.
Next: Complaints Procedures
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