Energy: Split of tariffs: basic supplier warned

Splitting of the tariffs: basic supplier warned

Basic suppliers are criticized because they sometimes demand extremely high energy tariffs from new customers. Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa-Zentralbild / dpa

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In recent weeks, many gas and electricity providers have introduced tariffs for new customers that are significantly higher than those for existing customers. This practice has long been a thorn in the side of consumer advocates.

The consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia has warned three basic suppliers about a split in the energy tariffs for new and existing customers.

The consumer advocates called on the companies Rheinenergie, Stadtwerke Gütersloh and the Wuppertal WSW Energie & Wasser to withdraw the new customer tariffs. Otherwise, the consumer advice center reserves the right to take legal action. Because of the recent sharp rises in electricity and gas prices, numerous providers took more money from their new customers than from their old ones.

Prices for new customers are many times higher

Many basic suppliers, i.e. the energy providers with most customers in a region, have introduced new tariffs for new customers in the past few weeks. The background to this was the cessation of deliveries by energy discounters, which meant that many former customers fell into the so-called replacement supply from the local basic supplier. If the previous supplier is no longer available, they are obliged to initially continue to supply their customers with electricity and gas, but according to the association they have to buy the energy at extremely high prices.

According to a statement published on Thursday, the consumer advice center complained that the majority of the basic providers demand prices from the new customers that are many times higher than those of the previous customer base. This is an unequal treatment that violates the applicable provisions of energy law. In parallel to the warnings, the consumer advocates called on the NRW energy cartel authority, which is part of the NRW Ministry of Economics, to act.

“With all understanding for the not very easy situation of the basic supplier – it doesn’t work like that,” said the board of directors of the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia, Wolfgang Schuldzinski. Discrimination against consumers who fell back into the basic service through no fault of their own is illegal and contradicts the actual protective purpose of the basic service. All legal means will be used to counteract this disadvantage, “which only takes place on the basis of an arbitrarily set deadline.”

The consumer center NRW reported on a random sample in which the tariffs of 23 providers in NRW were examined. Of these, 18 companies introduced a new customer tariff for basic electricity supply. “The difference between new customer and existing customer prices of these providers is on average more than double,” it said. Three of the providers examined are currently even taking a new customer price per kilowatt hour of over 90 cents. The customers of providers who waived a tariff split, on the other hand, paid an average of only 34 cents per kilowatt hour.

The Wuppertal public utilities rejected the allegations. “An inclusion in the general basic tariff would have meant a price increase for many loyal existing customers of the WSW and we did not want to expect them to do that,” said WSW CEO Markus Hilkenbach, according to a statement. The state cartel authorities of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia had also dealt with the issue of the second tariff and assessed this procedure as legally permissible.


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