Berlin The chairman of the conference of consumer protection ministers, Baden-Württemberg’s department head Peter Hauk (CDU), has called on the Federal Cartel Office and the Federal Network Agency to take action because of the further increase in energy prices. “The relevant responsible institutions are also required in the interests of consumers to check the latest price increases,” Hauk told the Handelsblatt.
The CDU politician justified his request by saying that end customers are still confronted with rising gas prices, although liquid gas deliveries have stimulated the gas market. In addition, the gas price on the stock exchange has recently “dropped significantly”. “These lower prices in the gas sector must also be passed on to the consumers by the energy suppliers in a timely manner,” warned Hauk.
The minister is reacting to information from the Federation of Consumer Organizations (VZBV). The head of the energy and construction team at VZBV, Thomas Engelke, recently explained that many suppliers had increased their tariffs significantly again at the turn of the year. He also emphasizes the significant fall in prices on the gas and electricity exchanges since September.
While this development is taken into account in new contracts with consumers, the prices for existing customers unfortunately continue to rise, Engelke told the “Rheinische Post”. Therefore, a review by the Federal Cartel Office is necessary.
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Germany’s largest energy supplier Eon, for example, has doubled the prices for the “Stromstabil” and “Eon Strom” tariffs to around 50 cents per kilowatt hour in March. Many municipal utilities are also increasing their prices. In Leipzig and Munich, for example, the basic supply tariffs for electricity will increase by almost 150 percent starting this month. A kilowatt hour now costs 52.12 cents in Leipzig and as much as 61.89 cents in Munich.
“Take the black sheep at the energy discounters on a short leash”
The energy expert at the consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia, Udo Sieverding, also sees a need for action. In the case of municipal utilities and regional suppliers as well as discounters, one observes that moon prices are demanded in individual tariffs. “The Cartel Office must enforce the ban on the abuse of price brakes as quickly as possible.”
Politicians must also “put the black sheep at the energy discounters on a short leash through faster intervention by the network agency”.
>> Read also: Why providers are still increasing electricity tariffs
Gas prices will probably remain high for the citizens of Germany for a long time. “I hope that it will be better towards the end of 2023, even if not at the level of 2021,” Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) recently told the dpa news agency. “We will have to endure higher prices throughout the year.”
After that, the infrastructure will probably be developed to such an extent that sufficient replacement for the missing Russian gas will flow to Germany and the prices will regulate themselves again.
Most recently, the gas price on Europe’s wholesale markets had already fallen. However, this has not yet had any direct impact on consumers’ gas bills, as many suppliers have stocked up on long-term contracts. The pre-crisis level will not be reached again any time soon anyway. On average, prices at that time ranged between ten and 25 euros per megawatt hour. They are currently almost four times as high.
“Anyone who has bought expensively must of course also pass on the prices now,” says VZBV boss Ramona Pop on the Handelsblatt Energy Summit. Consumer advocate Sieverding advises comparing supplier prices and switching if necessary. “In general, we are finding that competition among electricity and gas providers is increasing again,” he said. A price comparison is therefore worthwhile.
In the event of a price increase, the consumer can make use of the so-called special right of termination. If he does not do anything else, he automatically slips into basic care. “If this is cheaper than a special tariff, this approach makes sense,” says Sieverding.
More: Wholesale gas prices are increasingly falling