11 September 2014

French Competition Authority orders GDF Suez to share customer data with competing energy providers

On 9 September 2014, the French Competition Authority (the FCA) issued urgent interim measures ordering the gas supplier GDF Suez to disclose part of its regulated gas tariffs-customer database to competing energy companies.

The French gas market has been opened to competition since July 2007. French customers can now choose to get their gas supplied either at regulated tariffs which are only available from the incumbent operator GDF Suez, or at "market" or “deregulated” tariffs which are available from a range of suppliers, including GDF Suez.

Direct Energie, a new gas supplier on the deregulated market, complained to the FCA in April 2014 that GDF Suez used its regulated tariffs-customer database to reach and acquire new customers for its deregulated market offerings, amongst other practices, such as tying its gas and electricity offers, and creating confusion for customers between its regulated and deregulated tariffs.

The FCA declared that at this stage of the investigation, GDF Suez might have abused its dominant position, and has decided to pursue the complaint.

In the meanwhile, and although GDF Suez argued that its database was not an essential facility, the FCA decided that is was both necessary and proportionate to order GDF Suez, as a precautionary measure, to grant access to its customer information, under objective, transparent and non-discriminatory conditions, including via web services accessible 24/7.

GDF Suez must start providing access at the latest by 3 November 2014 (for information on companies) or 15 December 2014 (for information on individuals). If GDF Suez does not comply with these deadlines, it will be blocked from marketing its deregulated offers until access is given.

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