Not only did electricity and gas prices rise sharply last year – district heating customers also had to pay significantly more. For two providers, the consumer advice center considers the increase to be unlawful and is suing.
The consumer advice center has sued the district heating providers Eon and Hansewerk Natur for allegedly illegal price increases. The Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv) announced on Monday in Berlin that class action lawsuits would be used to obtain refunds for customers. It’s about price increases of several hundred percent. Many customers of the two district heating providers would currently have to pay many times more for heating their living spaces than in 2020. The Funke media group had previously reported on the class action lawsuits.
According to the vzbv’s assessment, the price increases of the past few years are ineffective because the price change clauses do not meet the legal requirements. Action is being taken against price increases that occurred after 2020.
Eon: “Our prices are fair”
The two companies denied the allegations and each said they would take the lawsuit calmly. “Our district heating prices follow the legal requirements and adapt to cost and market developments,” explained an Eon spokesman in Essen. The pricing is based on price components that are based on basic data from the Federal Statistical Office that can be viewed at any time. They are aware of the burden on customers. “The historically high energy prices of the last two years were beyond our responsibility. Our prices were and are fair, transparent and meet all legal requirements,” the Eon spokesman continued.
A spokesman for Hansewerk Natur cited the historically high gas prices in the wake of the Russian attack against Ukraine as the reason for the price increases. Natural gas purchases for 2024 are possible at significantly lower prices. “This development will therefore generally be reflected in significantly lower labor prices for our heating customers from 2024 onwards.”
vzbv: Price in Erkrath rose from 6.18 to 23.24 cents
The consumer advocates cited Eon prices in the Erkrath-Hochdahl supply area in North Rhine-Westphalia as an example. Based on its price change clauses, Eon increased the gross working price from 6.18 cents per kilowatt hour in 2020 to 23.24 cents per kilowatt hour in 2022. With an annual consumption of 15,000 kilowatt hours, this means a total of 3,500 euros in additional costs for 2021 and 2022 combined. Similar developments can be seen elsewhere in the district heating prices of Eon and Hansewerk Natur.
Consumers could soon join the class action lawsuits by entering the lawsuit register at the Federal Office of Justice (BfJ), according to the vzbv. As a result, their claims are not time-barred. The register is expected to open in a few weeks. The lawsuits were filed with the higher regional courts in Schleswig (SH) and Hamm (NRW).
The Cartel Office is conducting abuse proceedings against district heating suppliers
The Federal Cartel Office recently noticed price increases from district heating suppliers. Six now have to face abuse proceedings on suspicion of excessive price increases. Last week, the authority did not disclose exactly which providers these were. The authority particularly wants to examine the specific application of price adjustment clauses. It is unclear when the cartel office will complete its review.