Everyone has the right to change electricity and gas suppliers. However, switching to another supplier does not always go smoothly. The change can be prevented by the current energy supply contract, but the process can also be complicated by the current supplier or by administrative and other errors. What to look out for? And what should you do if you do not change supplier and your contract with the original supplier has already ended?
By switching energy suppliers, households can sometimes save considerable money. The switching process itself should take about a month. However, many people are not aware of the potential obstacles when they sign the paperwork required to change supplier.
“For example, the fact that their existing energy supply contract either cannot be terminated at all or only with the payment of a high contractual penalty because it was agreed for a certain period that has not yet ended,” warns Eduarda Hekšová, director of the consumer organisation dTest.
Another problem may be that the person requesting the change is different from the person named in the existing contract. There are also situations where the contract is held in the name of, for example, a deceased member of the household. In these circumstances, it is necessary to apply for a transfer of the point of subscription to another person.
Some suppliers are using so-called retention offers in an attempt to keep customers who want to leave them. “If you receive a retention offer, check the other terms of the contract, such as penalties and other charges, in addition to the price. You should also consider whether you want to lock in a fixed-term contract with your existing supplier,” advises Hekshova.
Many suppliers make it difficult for customers to switch by refusing to tell them when their contract will end. Yet consumers have a right under the Energy Act to truthful and complete information about their contract when making a choice of supplier.
Sometimes, administrative errors or clerical mistakes, for example, can hinder the smooth process of changing suppliers. “We have encountered cases where the whole process of changing a supplier had to be restarted because the change request was not accepted due to a wrong accent in the name,” says Eduarda Hekšová.
An unpleasant, although rather rare, problem can arise when the change of supplier is not made and the contract with the original supplier expires at the same time. If someone takes energy without a contract, this is known as black energy. As a result of the black consumption, the person concerned may end up paying many times more than for the energy actually consumed. If a consumer finds himself in a black market when switching suppliers, it is necessary to immediately address the situation and find out which of the suppliers may have been at fault in the switching process and then seek redress.
If a blackout occurs due to the customer’s misconduct, the customer is first and foremost liable to pay the actual amount of the damage, i.e. the price of the energy and related services consumed, as well as the costs of detecting the blackout, such as a meter inspection trip.
“If the actual amount of the damage cannot be ascertained, then compensation shall be determined by agreement or according to a decree that specifies an alternative calculation. Cases have reached the courts where the customer has been ordered by the substitute calculation to pay for black consumption many times higher than the payments for the previous period when no black consumption occurred,” Hekšová said, adding: “The fairness of such a procedure has been addressed in the past by the Supreme and Constitutional Courts of the Czech Republic, according to which the calculated amount of damage should be as close as possible to the actual damage, and should not be a penalty.”