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Global Economy

Terminated customers can defend themselves

"Unfortunately, we are coming to you today with some unpleasant news" – this is how the e-mail began, with which the electricity supplier Stromio parted with many of its customers, even though they had valid contracts. For customers, the terminations came completely out of nowhere. "You hear that electricity prices are going up, but you think you have a contract," reports a former Stromio customer from near Cologne. He was forced to switch to the primary care provider and pay much more there than before.

Redelivery or compensation?

Consumer advocates criticize Stromio and sharply: "The behavior of the companies is illegal and dubious," says Holger Schneidewindt from the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia. According to his assessment, customers who have suffered damage now have two options: they can either insist on being supplied again or switch providers and claim damages.

The NRW consumer advice center provides sample letters for both options, but advises against having Stromio supply you again: "It can be an endless horror. We recommend an end with horror," says Schneidewindt. So he advises a change of provider with a claim for damages.

The consumer advice center Hessen is preparing a model declaratory action. Their goal is to have the court determine that the companies have to pay damages.

The public prosecutor examines the initial suspicion

The Federal Network Agency, which controls the energy market, has already dealt with the case. In connection with Stromio and, she submitted a complaint to the public prosecutor's office in Düsseldorf, the authorities confirmed when asked by "This includes the termination of energy supply contracts and the sale of residual amounts of energy," said a spokesman for the Federal Network Agency.

The public prosecutor's office in Düsseldorf reports that there is also a criminal complaint "in connection with terminations by gas and electricity providers". The public prosecutor's office does not mention which companies are involved. "The initial suspicion is currently being examined, i.e. whether there are sufficient actual indications of a possible crime," said the public prosecutor. Criminal investigations have not yet been launched.

Stromio lawyers reject allegations

The press inquiry to Stromio and is answered by a law firm specializing in media law. According to the letter from the law firm, the contracts were terminated solely because of the "historically unique price explosions on the energy market". The lawyers also reject the accusation that the companies could have given notice of termination in order to sell remaining amounts of energy more profitably to wholesalers.

New customers pay significantly more for basic suppliers

There is another controversy surrounding the role of primary care providers. They offered the customers rejected by Stromio and worse conditions than their existing customers. Consumer advocate Schneidewindt considers this unequal treatment to be unlawful: "Over the year, new customers often have four-digit additional costs compared to existing customers."

The consumer advice center NRW has therefore applied for temporary injunctions against several basic suppliers, but has already had to put up with a damper. The Cologne district court rejected the application against the default supplier Rheinenergie. Now the consumer center wants to lodge a complaint with the Higher Regional Court.

In the longer term, consumer advocates are hoping for a new legal framework. The licensing requirements should be regulated more strictly, says Schneidewindt: "It can't be that every Hans and Franz can be an energy supplier."

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