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Electricity customers complain about alternation blockades

VConsumer advocates criticize the plans of credit agencies for databases on customers of electricity and gas suppliers. The companies could use the contract information to reject customers who frequently changed suppliers in order to secure low prices, said Barbara Saerbeck from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) on Tuesday.

According to Saerbeck, consumer advice centers are already receiving repeated complaints from customers who reported difficulties in changing suppliers.

The NDR and the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported that the credit agencies Schufa and Crifbürgel were developing databases in which contract data from as many customers as possible across the industry should be stored.

A Schufa spokesman emphasized that the data pool, which has not yet been developed to market maturity, does not have the goal of “identifying frequent changers in order to prevent them from being able to change their energy supplier”. Crifbürgel announced that there is currently no data pool available for energy suppliers. The federal and state data protectionists want to deal with the plans at the beginning of November, as a spokesman for the NRW authority confirmed.

Schufa wrote on a website that has since been deleted about its “E-Pool” that the suppliers could receive valuable information from the “information on the existing energy account and the current term”. According to the Schufa spokesman, the information should help suppliers to offer a contract to consumers without a sufficient credit rating.

Providers do not have to justify rejection

In Germany, only a small proportion of consumers change electricity and gas providers. According to the Federal Network Agency, a good two thirds of all households were still using electricity from their traditional local suppliers in 2018. Only around 10 percent of households change their electricity provider each year. Making a change more difficult “seems questionable not only for reasons of data protection, but also damages free competition and takes consumer-friendly electricity market liberalization ad absurdum,” warned a spokesman for the comparison portal Verivox.

It is not known how many consumers who are willing to switch do not receive a contract from a supplier. The companies do not have to give any reasons for this. According to the experience of the comparison portal Check24, which also arranges new electricity contracts, customers are usually rejected because of formal errors such as incorrectly entered names or rotated numbers in the meter number.

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