NewsElectricity and gas prices: increases are often unlawful

Electricity and gas prices: increases are often unlawful

Created: 07/25/2022, 11:55 am

Electricity and gas prices are rising, and consumers are also noticing this. However, the increases by the provider are not always legal.

Kassel – The energy crisis as a result of the Ukraine conflict is currently one of the issues that people in Germany are particularly concerned about. Electricity and gas prices continue to skyrocket, which is why numerous providers are increasing their discounts to consumers.

A letter from the provider has already fluttered into many houses, announcing the increase in prices. But can these be raised simply because energy prices in the market are rising? As an expert from the Hesse consumer center explained to from IPPEN.MEDIA , consumers do not simply have to accept the adjustment and can take action.

Price increases for electricity and gas – that’s behind it

The prices for electricity and gas are made up of various individual items. According to the consumer center, this includes the purchase price on the stock exchange, the company’s margin, but also the costs of the energy provider for sales, taxes, levies and levies. In the case of electricity, the following are:

  • EEG surcharge (Renewable Energy Sources Act)
  • Network charges that providers pay for using the networks
  • electricity tax

If individual cost factors increase, this results in increased discounts for consumers. Before the prices can be raised, however, the change in the basic service must be made public, for example in daily newspapers and on the Internet. “In addition, every basic supplier is obliged to inform its customers by letter six weeks before a planned change,” explained Peter Lassek, lawyer and head of the legal department at the consumer advice center in Hesse. Otherwise the price increase is ineffective.

In the case of special pensions, on the other hand, the changes do not have to be published. However, the providers are obliged to inform the customer about the adjustment. This is usually done by letter at least a month in advance. In addition, the reason, scope and conditions for the price increase must be specified.

Provider increases energy prices for electricity and gas: you can do that

“If your provider announces price increases for electricity and gas, you usually have a special right of termination. This allows you to terminate the contract with the provider earlier than previously agreed,” informed Lassek. In the case of special pensions, however, the special right of termination can only be exercised if consumers also find out about the increase.

If the price increase is not received by customers, the consumer advice center believes that a special right of termination applies from the time at which one learns of the adjustment. “Then inform the provider that you have not received any notification of an increase and, if necessary, use your special right of termination. In this case, you can also object to the price increase and only pay the part of the price that has come about as a result of the increase,” the lawyer explained.

Zahlreiche Energieanbieter ziehen derzeit die Preise für Gas und Strom an. Doch Verbraucherinnen und Verbraucher müssen das nicht einfach hinnehmen. (Symbolbild)
Numerous energy suppliers are currently increasing the prices for gas and electricity. But consumers don’t just have to accept that. (Iconic image) © Patrick Pleul/dpa

However, Lassek also pointed out that in view of the current situation, the prices of all providers are increasing. So before you send out a notice of termination in anger about the new prices, it is advisable to first check possible savings if you switch providers. “So you would have to research in advance whether you can find a cheaper tariff elsewhere.” The contract can ultimately be terminated at the point at which the price increase then takes effect. For example, if the prices are to rise on January 1st, the notice of termination must be received by the provider by December 31st of the previous year.

High electricity and gas prices: In these cases, the adjustments are unlawful

However, electricity and gas providers cannot simply top up the discounts. “Price increases during a fixed price guarantee are illegal,” added Lassek. According to the new Energy Security Act, there would only be exceptions if the so-called gas emergency level was declared. Then “contracts with a price guarantee could also be annulled.” According to Lassek, however, the important thing is: “Not only must the alarm level be declared, but the Federal Network Agency must also determine a significant, steady reduction in the total gas import volume to Germany and publish it in the Federal Gazette. This is currently not the case.”

Despite the crises and the nationwide price adjustments, it is advisable to always question the provider’s pricing policy. “In the past few months, we have repeatedly had to deal with energy discounters who, in our opinion, have driven their prices up unlawfully. Since the beginning of 2022, for example, complaints about the providers Primastrom and Voxenergie have been increasing,” explained Lassek. One of the providers increased the costs per kilowatt hour from 9 to 24 euros, “despite a contractually agreed price guarantee, after which increases were excluded for a fixed period of time.” For a two-person household, this corresponds to about a tripling of the costs and an increase of 1700 euros per year.

“Our federal association in Berlin now wants to have the court clarify that the providers’ business practices violated the terms of the contract and that customers only had to pay the price agreed at the beginning of the contract,” added the expert from the Hesse consumer advice center.

Gas and electricity prices continue to rise – expert with recommendation

In the event of a price increase for electricity and gas, however, every letter and e-mail from the provider should be read carefully. “The current price increases are sometimes considerable, but there are hardly any attractive options for switching,” explained the expert from the Hesse consumer advice center.

According to Lassek, one should not act too quickly. “In the current uncertain situation, it can also make sense to keep your feet still, stay with the existing tariff and closely monitor further market developments.” (asc)

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