email@example.com: "Help, my electricity price explodes": FOCUS Online brings you out of the rip-trap
The base price increase of an electricity provider by 360 percent has hit high waves in FOCUS Online. The consumer center Hessen gave us an extensive opinion on the subject – including a legal assessment.
Electricity provider increases base price by 360 percent – what you can do against rip off. This article has made waves, showing that this is not an isolated case.
For this reason, we approached the Hesse Consumer Center and obtained independent expertise, which you read after the exemplary letters can. This also contains a legal assessment.
Three letters from our readers:
I have a problem with evergreen.
Had a 2-year contract with evergreen. After a year I received the 1st invoice. On the second sheet stood in a small table price increase. It contained the price of electricity, which had not changed. It was not apparent that I currently pay 8.86 euros monthly fee. It was only there 49.00 euros per month. Since I can see the old basic fee only in the contract, I did not notice.
Now I have received after the 2nd year a final invoice of 717.89 additional payment. But only used for about 320 euros more electricity. After verification and comparison with the contract, I noticed that the basic fee is the reason. Increased from 8.86 to 49.00 per month.
Can anything be done against this bill?
I have already changed the provider.
I just got the annual bill from the electricity gas provider eprimo received. I found out that with electricity and gas the base price was disproportionately increased from 1.01.2019.
In the case of electricity, the base price has been increased from 41.64 Euro to 141.20 Euro. For gas, the annual base price has been increased from 136.49 euros to 307.76 euros. But I have also received no message from eprimo this increase is pending. Although I have a new provider to 1.04.2019, but about this final statement, I was very angry. Less consumed and still have to make a back payment.
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Provider Immergrün AG
2018 May price increase basic charge
5 to 20 euros per month (as part of the annual accounts and not explicitly shown) so hidden !!
November 2018 without the customer (me To inform From 20 to 30 Euro basic fee again increased. !!! No info received the new digital documents!
No special right of termination despite moving to Pinneberg planned by Hamburg in March 2019.
See terms and conditions, possibly damages by evergrün ag because customer informs too late about move of was done in March 2019.
Then I used the reclamation box on the internet.
As a result, second price increase was retrospectively issued and termination and vendor switch to March 2019 has been made.
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What do the experts say at the consumer center?
The issue of "massive increases in the base price in an incomprehensible manner" has been described to us by consumers for some years now, explains lawyer Peter Lassek from the Verbraucherzentrale Hessen. And if the costs increase by several hundred euros per year, it becomes particularly annoying.
The Consumer Advocacy clarifies this with its own example. The supplier of a couple from Hanover suddenly demanded a base price of almost 25 euros per month – and even spoke of a "good news."
What exactly happened?
Already in the fall of 2013, consumers turned to the market monitor energy of the VZ Lower Saxony, who had concluded supply contracts with so-called packet tariffs with the electricity provider evergreen Energie GmbH (these are set in advance, the minimum amount of electricity customers lose in the course of a year). Like many package tariffs, the offer only provided for a labor price, ie that part of the electricity cost that depends on actual consumption. On the other hand, customers did not have to pay a consumption-independent basic amount (base price). The basic price was therefore given as 0,00 Euro / month in the contract confirmation .
Just a few weeks later, however, consumers received an e-mail announcing that this would happen in the future change: From 1 January 2015, the base price should then be just under 25 euros per month. Calculated over a whole year thus incurred additional costs of almost 300 euros. Since a price guarantee had been agreed at the conclusion of the contract by the end of 2014, January 2015 was the earliest possible date to raise prices.
Note : The most favorable offers of the local basic suppliers and the supraregional suppliers as far as they are published on the internet and in accordance with the guidelines of Verivox. Offers that are limited in availability have not been considered.
How the Hidden Price Increase Is Packaged
The cover letter announced three good news – the additional costs only mentioned on page 4 of the customer's letter.
The special feature of the message of evergreen energy: Instead of naming the increase or introduction of the base price clear, chose the electricity provider throughout the six-page e-mail attachment throughout positive formulations and descriptions. For example, the headline "Three good news at a glance" was clearly highlighted on the first page. A few lines below it said: "The first good news: We will continue to deliver you on attractive terms beyond your existing price guarantee."
That these supposedly attractive conditions actually meant significant additional costs, was only on the fourth Page of the letter – with the following words: "Nevertheless, we can now grant you a full warranty on the basic price from 01/01/2015 to 31/12/2016. The monthly base price is fixed at 24.58 € over this period and is hedged against any increase. "
Volatile readers were quick to miss the price increase
Faced with the abundance of positive language, it was for the Observers of the letter so not so easy to recognize that it was a price increase. In particular, by the word "fix" could quickly give the fleeting reader the impression that would change the pricing in the future, not much.
Due to the visual design and the mailing shortly after the contract, the victims went mostly assuming that the email attachment was advertising, and just glanced at it.
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Cases occur again and again
This is also shown by the current complaints at FOCUS Online, which are listed above.
Only at the end of last year did we have comparable complaints regarding the provider BEV (Bayerische Energieversorgung) , Again, it was about some drastic price increases … shortly thereafter, the insolvency announcement came.
See also press release of the consumer center Hesse:
How is the case evaluated legally?
Price increases by energy suppliers are only permissible if they meet certain requirements. The most important rules include: Consumers must be informed in a transparent and understandable manner about the planned changes (§ 41 (3) of the Energy Industry Act – EnWG ). Whether the letter and mail mentioned above meet these requirements can be doubted.
Of course you always have to look and check whether there is a legal basis for a price increase in the respective supply contract (or in the effectively included supply conditions). However, an effective price adjustment clause allowing for increases of more than 300 percent is likely to be unlikely.
In the past, there have been several instances where price increases in court have been declared ineffective because the critical information in the messages was hard to spot or downright hidden. For example, in December 2015, the Regional Court of Düsseldorf criticized a letter in which the reference to the price change was in a page-long text and was not highlighted (ref .: 12 O 177/14, Extraenenergie – https: //www.justiz. nrw.de/nrwe/lgs/duesseldorf/lg_duesseldorf/j2015/12_O_177_14_Urteil_20151209.html – see also article "The black sheep among the electricity providers – beware of extra energy, Stromio, 365 AG".
Beside the optical design criticized the judges also misinterpreted the text itself as it misleadingly suggested that customers were protected from price increases.
What should consumers pay attention to in similar cases?
In the case of price increases, customers generally have a special right of termination which means that the contract can be terminated without observing the usual deadlines and terms I – as described above – suddenly faces an immense increase in costs, so can simply cancel the contract and switch to a cheaper provider. A litigation with judicial review and the associated cost risks (keyword imminent insolvency) will lead the fewest consumer.
Important : Pay attention to possible deadlines. Often providers only give their customers little time to react to the price increase and to make use of their special right of termination; are spread about two weeks. Whether such a restriction is permissible or whether the contract can still be terminated until the price increase takes effect is not yet legally clarified. However, those who want to be on the safe side in the event of a termination should consider the deadlines of the provider as a precautionary measure.
In the present case from Hannover, the couple did not have to deal with a short deadline, missed the right time for the Termination, however, because it noticed the price increase as described above, much too late.
Customers could object to the price increase
If deadlines were missed – for example, because the price increase was realized far too late, remains but still one possibility: You could invoke the ineffectiveness of the price increase (see above). Specifically, this means that they could object to the price increase and inform the utility company that it was ineffective due to the non-transparent announcement.
However, one should first consider the consequences of a price conflict. After a price increase has been challenged, there are basically two options from the customer's point of view: Either the consumers refuse to pay and continue to pay only the old price or they pay the new price, but with reservations. However, if you refuse to pay, you should be aware that the vendor could sue the money or terminate the contract. A conditional payment, in turn, means that the customer will not get his money back until he becomes active himself and goes to court.
And: If the company slips into bankruptcy – as in the case of BEV done – the money is lost! So always make sure you do not over-subscribe and provide credit to the company. The haircuts should also be realistically adapted to actual consumer behavior.
Overall, this shows that it is possible to defend itself legally against price increases, but it may require a long breath and be associated with considerable legal costs. Consumers without legal expenses insurance should therefore consider this step well.
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