Basic Utilities May Not Turn Customers Off

It is not unlikely that your natural gas or electricity provider will want to raise his fees. This often happens at the turn of a year. This article will explore, what you can do against this.


Generally, service providers may determine their prices as they want – in accordance with §315 BGB within bona fide limits (§138 BGB). So, when the gas price rises, you have the right to respond by not paying what you believe that is not equitable. The civil consequence most likely will be that the provider would like to turn off the supply to you. And, pursuant to §273 BGB, the provider does have the right to retain his supply if he is not paid. Since someone cannot easily switch his provider whenever the bill is increased, you end up in a tight spot. So, what then?

First of all, if you do come to such a situation it is very important to still keep paying so much as would you pay had the price not been raised. If you completely stop paying because the provider is asking for more money, such will definitely give the provider the right to cut off the heat even in the wintertime and you should expect that they will really do it. It is a well-known strategy of the giant energy concerns to bully the low-income elderly and the poor so that they will pay. In the meantime, several test cases are pending at court relating to the fact that hundreds of thousand of people have not only complained against the hikes in the prices but also filed cases in courts.

In the following, you will receive some hints how you can defend yourself if you believe the new price scheme is not equitable. If you defend yourself against the price hike, you may not be confronted with a discontinuance of the service. You can always refer to the court decision of the Bundesgerichtshof (highest court in civil matters). Consider the judgments of July 5, 2005 (re X ZR 60/04 and X ZR 99/04). Most providers know about these decisions, so you should, too.

It is required that the provider has given proper notice that it will interrupt the supply. Just sending a reminder for missing payments is not sufficient. If you read something like “Werden wir die Belieferung / Versorgung mit [Gas/Strom/Wasser, etc.] zum [certain date].” If the date is not missing, and the interruption has not yet taken place, you have to respond – ASAP! Write a letter to your provider, instructing them in writing to promptly withdraw their notice to interrupt service to avoid legal action. You can refer to the court decisions above in your letter.

Why is there such commotion about this subject? The Bavarian state Monopolies Office considers that a utility supply violates antitrust law. Simultaneously, you ought to put the provider on notice that you will prosecute for trespass to prevent that a mere employee – with no actual knowledge of your equitable dispute – comes onto your premises and turns off the utility supply.


If your provider is not willing to withdraw his notice to terminate, how do you best prevent that announcement? Best would be now to apply for a temporary injunction in court with the help of German lawyer. The best would be to hire a lawyer specialized in utility law. Of course, any lawyer can draft a temporary injunction, but utility law is highly specialized and few lawyers really deal with it. But how does one find a qualified lawyer? You already have a lawyer, you can consult him, if not you can look on the web at

If your provider does not, react or refuses, to, then have your lawyer file a temporary injunction in court requesting that the supplier is, for the time being, forbidden to turn off the utility. You should not try doing it yourself because such an application is complicated and belongs in professional hands. Such temporary injunctions have thus far been granted. If the court should not grant your application, then you have the right to appeal.


Further assistance can be obtained on the internet from Bund der Energieverbraucher (Association of Energy Consumers) They will supply you with sample letters on how to protest against a price raise for utilities. If you join, the fee is € 10 per year, and, they might even finance your legal costs for suing in court. On the website of this association, you will find some detailed albeit somewhat different suggestions – all in German. They are – of course – not wrong but compiled for Germans with an average general education. Unless your German is nearly fluent and you are familiar with living in Germany, you will not likely be able to follow their suggestions for self-help.

Published on the old CMS: 2007/1/9
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 6,295 reads

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