What Ann-Cathrin and Maximilian would do without the university, they prefer not to imagine at the moment. The fact that face-to-face teaching is back suits the young couple studying in Cologne. Because of the fellow students, of course, but mainly because the university is heated and there are plenty of sockets to charge the laptop. “We don’t use anything there,” says Maximilian, “we think so.”
It’s in her mailbox and on her bank statements price increases the energy supplier arrived. For their poorly insulated 60-square-meter apartment in Cologne, this means they no longer pay a 71-euro deduction per month for electricity, but 160 euros. For gas, which they use for hot water and radiators, the discount has increased from 43 to 152 euros. Saving energy wherever possible is therefore the order of the day. One-pot dishes are now being cooked. Anything that makes do with a stovetop is good. They even turned out a few of the lamps in the living room to eliminate unnecessary consumers, they say.
The uncertainty is great
Last week, the federal government announced an electricity and gas price cap. 200 billion euros of taxpayers’ money will be mobilized to reduce energy costs for consumers and companies. This includes a subsidized basic consumption for electricity customers, which has not yet been specified in more detail. Even fewer details are available gas price brake known, except that the surcharges to support the gas suppliers will be dropped and the value added tax will be reduced from 19 to seven percent. Nevertheless, not only students should have great hopes for the package. But many consumers have long since received mail from their suppliers, higher prices and discounts have been announced and are therefore legally effective, provided the customer does not use their special right of termination. Will everything still be fine now?
The uncertainty is great, and they feel it too consumer centers the countries. Hasibe Dündar advises consumers on energy law issues in Berlin. Now that the price increases have fluttered into many mailboxes, she has a lot to do. “People are unsettled because they don’t know whether their ignorance will be exploited, what the latest status of the gas levy is, whether the letters have formal errors or how they should now calculate the deduction.” Recently, reports Dündar, she has a wife in the advice that instead of paying six cents for a kilowatt hour of natural gas, it should pay 47 cents. A deduction of 200 euros became 1600. Even people with middle incomes could no longer easily put up with it, since it is about the financial reserves.
Those people who are looked after by Dündar’s colleague Nicole Hensel in Hesse in energy debt advice have long since been used up, if they were even there. The project “Hesse fights energy poverty” has been in existence for two years, but what has been happening in the energy departments of the consumer advice center since autumn 2021 is extraordinary. The number of consultations had increased thirteenfold. Older people and single parents in particular come to Hensel. “We notice that people are much more desperate. A lot of people cry on the phone because they don’t know how to handle it.” However, Hensel also says that there is always a solution, even in hardship cases.
Customers should keep calm
“The energy suppliers in Hesse are really cooperative, I have to emphasize that,” she says. Nobody wants to block. But suppliers are allowed to do that if you don’t pay the deductions for two months. The top priority is therefore: Always open the letters, do not ignore reminders, use offers of help when in doubt. Counseling centers often have good contacts with the suppliers and mediate so that the electricity or gas is not turned off in the first place. In addition, Hensel recommends noting the meter readings on the date of each announced price change so that the billing can be correct at the end.