[Article updated June 23 at 16:25]
Members of a French consumer group have launched legal action against the alternative energy supplier, Mint, after it changed their contracts seemingly without asking for permission in November 2021.
Customers who had been on Mint contracts tied to the state’s regulated electricity tariff – which is currently capped at a 4% rise – found that they had been moved to a so-called Flex & Green plan, which was indexed on general market rates.
This meant that their bills – no longer frozen – skyrocketed, and customers claim that they were not given sufficient notice or asked for their permission.
This change caused “significant harm” to customers, “often to the tune of several hundred euros,” consumer group Consommation, logement, cadre de vie (CLCV) said.
CLCV has therefore initiated a group action against Mint Énergie at a court in Montpellier – the city where Mint is based – claiming that the company’s decision constitutes a sale without prior purchase, which breaches its contract with consumers.
The consumer group is inviting any Mint customers who were affected by the sudden bill increases to join the group action so that they can be compensated if the court rules in their favour. You can find out more about this in the organisation’s statement on the case.
Mint Énergie, which describes itself as an ‘écoresponsable’, green supplier, has said that it had 240,000 customers in February 2022, but has not added how many were affected by the tariff changes.
This is not the first time that CLCV has taken legal action against an energy supplier. In March 2022, it targeted GreenYellow – a subsidiary of Cdiscount – ekWateur and Ovo Energy over a similar situation regarding gas tariffs.
Overall, around 500,000-600,000 people may have been affected by suppliers suddenly swapping from regulated to market tariffs, causing bills to rise by 30-40%.
France’s national energy regulator, Le Médiateur national de l’énergie, has said that it is in discussions with company bosses to search for “amicable solutions to numerous disputes”.
It states that it has dealt with 542 cases relating to Mint between January 1 and June 7, with one third of these being linked to tariff changes.
“We are actually working with the [energy] mediator to provide a solution for customers who may still be encountering difficulties with their contract,” the company’s spokesperson Sylvia Michiels told Le Parisien.
The Connexion contacted Mint Énergie for comment, and a spokesperson said: "Mint Énergie has, likely borne the cost of the context of the end of 2021: an energy market shaken by a surge in electricity and gas prices. Consequently, it was obliged to adapt its tariffs.
"This increase, carried out while strictly applying regulation and contractual obligations, was necessary for the company to keep providing its customers with more sustainable energy.
"The announcement was made in complete transparency, by sending out 38,000 text messages and more than 260,000 emails from September 27, 2021, allowing each customer to anticipate and understand exactly the situation Mint Énergie found itself in."
Mint CEO Kaled Zourray said: "There is never a good time for price rises and we share in French people's struggle to maintain spending power. Since January 2022, amid a continuous rise in market energy prices, in order to protect our clients we have put in place a fixed price offer and capped the price of our other variable price offer."
CLCV’s current group action does not concern Planète OUI customers who were affected by steep price rises when Mint bought their supplier in February of this year. The consumer organisation has requested a government inquiry into this matter.