BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - The consumer association has sued the district heating providers Eon and Hansewerk Natur for allegedly unlawful price increases. The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) announced in Berlin on Monday that it was seeking refunds for customers through class actions. It is 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 homes compared to 2020. Funke Mediengruppe had previously reported on the class action lawsuits.

According to the vzbv, the price increases of recent years are invalid because the price change clauses do not meet the legal requirements. It is taking action against price increases that took place after 2020.

Eon: "Our prices are fair"

The two companies rejected the accusations and each stated that they were relaxed about the lawsuit. "Our district heating prices follow the legal requirements and adjust to cost and market developments," explained an Eon spokesperson 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. The company is aware of the burdens placed on customers. "However, the historically high energy prices of the last two years were beyond our control. Our prices were and are fair, transparent and comply with all legal requirements," the Eon spokesperson continued.

A spokesperson for Hansewerk Natur cited the historically high gas prices in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine as the cause of the price increases. Natural gas purchases for 2024 are possible at significantly lower prices. "This development will therefore generally be reflected in significantly lower working prices for our heating customers from 2024."

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. There, Eon had increased the gross labor price from 6.18 cents per kilowatt hour in 2020 to 23.24 cents per kilowatt hour in 2022 on the basis of its price change clauses. For an annual consumption of 15,000 kilowatt hours, this means a total of 3,500 euros in additional costs for 2021 and 2022 combined. Elsewhere, similar developments can be seen in the district heating prices of Eon and Hansewerk Natur.

According to the vzbv, consumers were able to join the class actions shortly by registering with the Federal Office of Justice (BfJ). This means that their claims are not time-barred. The register is expected to be opened in a few weeks. The lawsuits have been filed with the higher regional courts in Schleswig (SH) and Hamm (NRW).

Cartel Office conducts abuse proceedings against district heating suppliers

Price increases by district heating suppliers have also recently come to the attention of the Federal Cartel Office. Six are now facing abuse proceedings on suspicion of excessive price increases. The authority did not reveal exactly which suppliers these are last week. In particular, the authority wants to examine the specific application of price adjustment clauses. It remains to be seen when the Cartel Office will complete its investigation./tob/DP/nas