Dhe Verbraucherzentrale Hessen fears that because of the high and rising energy prices, hundreds of consumers in Hessen will no longer be able to pay their electricity or gas bills, thereby building up so-called energy debt. As the head of the consumer center, Philipp Wendt, said, this situation can mean that customers could be turned off electricity or gas. “This is already possible if the second installment payment fails and if there are debts of more than one hundred euros,” said Wendt.
He therefore called on federal politicians to legally prohibit energy cuts by September of this year at the latest, “at least as long as the gas alert level is in force,” said Wendt. He criticized that many households could no longer bear the energy costs. “The risk of people sitting without electricity and gas in the fall is high,” says Wendt.
Exceptional situation on the energy markets
A tried-and-tested strategy for many consumers has been to simply make use of their special right of termination in the event of price increases and to switch to a cheaper tariff. “Due to the exceptional situation on the energy markets and the tense price situation, it is currently very difficult to find an attractive electricity or gas tariff,” said Peter Lassek, head of the consumer law department at the consumer advice center. This applies in particular if the tariff is to have a price guarantee. The signals are currently pointing to rising prices everywhere. “We therefore currently advise against changing the existing tariff too quickly,” continued Lassek.
According to consumer advocates, the rising energy prices since October last year have once again shown how great the uncertainty is due to the current situation on the energy market. Last year, more than 10,000 men and women took advantage of the energy-saving advice provided by the Hesse Consumer Center. Because of the price increase and also because of the illegal behavior of individual energy suppliers, the consumer advice center set up a free hotline on energy law and energy prices in October 2021. More than 700 people would have sought support there in 2021 and even more than 3,800 in the current year.
This trend continues. The proportion of consultations on energy issues rose from ten percent to 30 percent. “We’re working to capacity, that’s all we can do,” says Wendt. A total of almost 80,000 people visited the Hesse consumer advice center over the past year. More than two thirds of them – over 61,000 people – took advantage of one or more consultations. This means that the number of consultations is still well above the level before the pandemic.