The letter from the energy supplier was titled "Your new discount plan" and was in friendly blue-green. It started with good news: "You don't have to worry about anything: We have adjusted the deduction plan for your eco-gas tariff EprimoGas PrimaKlima." The E.on sales subsidiary Eprimo also promised "more transparency", because: "It is important to us that they are well informed.”
But after reading the letter, the Jahr family in Windsbach was no longer talking about a great climate, and they didn't feel well informed either. Because the monthly down payment for their gas consumption of around 19,300 kilowatt hours per year would just fivefold, from the previous 144 euros to 722 euros per month. Price brake already included.
Other Eprimo customers were hit even harder. A landlord in Krefeld is to pay more than ten times as much for the heating of four apartments: Instead of 413 euros, the bill now reads 4736 euros per month. "Due to the high number of customer inquiries, we are unfortunately difficult to reach at the moment," wrote Eprimo.
At WELT's request, a company spokesman tried to calm the excitement. The new payments on account are actually the additional payment for the past year, which would otherwise have become due immediately with the year-end statement. Admittedly, Eprimo did not make that very clear in the letter.
Instead of being confronted with a one-off additional charge of 1444 euros in the year-end statement, it is made easier for the customer by distributing the amount of 722 to the last two monthly payments to be made by then, according to the Eprimo spokesman: " We spare the customer the big hammer in the annual statement.”
Customers who feared paying five or ten times as much for gas in the future may find the explanation reassuring. Because once the additional payment has been paid off in this way, a significantly lower deduction would probably apply again from the new accounting period.
According to the comparison portal Check24, around 20,000 kilowatt hours of PrimaKlima gas are offered by Eprimo in Windsbach for 196 euros a month, i.e. for less than a quarter of the short-term required shock discount.
However, consumer advocates consider Eprimo's billing method to be questionable and the calculation result to be "incomprehensible." The "complaints about Eprimo are increasing," reports the Lower Saxony consumer center.
Recalculations have shown that monthly advance payments between 600 and 1700 euros are excessive. "System errors or calculations," asks the consumer advice center in Hanover openly and advises: "Those affected should object in writing and request corrections - nobody has to pay such excessive deductions."
Skepticism is appropriate. After all, the monthly advance payments are an advance payment on the forecast annual consumption. The year-end statement, on the other hand, must then refer back to the actual consumption.
Mixing the two, as Eprimo does, systematically makes little sense. It may also be legally vulnerable: After all, the law defines certain requirements for the content of invoices that could be violated here.
The problems are apparently not limited to gas customers. In one case, the down payments for electricity should even increase by a factor of 13, according to the consumer advocates from Lower Saxony: "We are currently receiving inquiries from customers of Eprimo GmbH who are irritated, annoyed or simply desperate," explains energy law expert Julia Schroeder.
Consumers report that when asked, Eprimo insists that the invoices are correct. Consumer advocate Schröder has doubts: the amount of the advance payment often does not match the consumption volume and price.
"Of course, minor deviations can always occur, for example if only eleven instead of twelve advances are paid per year," says the lawyer: "But this is about 600 or even 900 euros a month. It makes you wonder what's behind it."
The European cap is intended to protect citizens and the economy from excessively high gas prices. "Price reductions always reach the consumer with a delay," says Frank Umbach, an expert on energy security.
Those affected should definitely check the information in the customer letters. The consumer advice center provides an online calculator for calculating the monthly deductions. If the deductions differ significantly, customers should immediately inform Eprimo in writing and request that the calculation be corrected.
Anyone who has given direct debit authorization can revoke it as a precautionary measure. "In this case, however, care should be taken to transfer the appropriate advance payment in good time so as not to default on payment," advises Schröder, adding: "But nobody has to pay significantly excessive advance payments."
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