Czech energy watchdog clamps down on sharp sales practices

Complaints about sharp practices by energy company reps are soaring with the country’s power watchdog threatening a clampdown if they continue

Companies|Energy & Green Biz
Chris Johnstone | 26.04.2012

Czech energy watchdog, the Energy Regulation Authority (ERÚ) has called for energy companies to explain the rising number of complaints about sharp and dubious sales practices from their sales representatives.

Complaints from nearly 3,000 customers flooded into the office in the first quarter of the year, the office said in a news release Thursday. ERÚ chairwoman Alena Vitásková said she had called in representatives of 27 of the most complained about companies to explain the problem.

Those companies include the sales arm of the country’s biggest electricity company ČEZ Prodej,  the biggest gas supplier RWE Energie, and E.ON Energie, which is the main electricity distributor and supplier in the south of the country. Other companies targeted by the office are Česke Energetické Centrum, Centropol Energy, Bohemia Energy, Bicorn, and X Energie.

‘After some checks, we have started administrative proceedings and other steps with regard to some traders which will help improve this poor situation on the liberalized energy market.’

Most customer complaints centered on traders’ tactics to try and close new energy supply agreements, failure to keep to agreed meter and billing timetables, and deals structured in such a way that they were difficult to get out of, the office said. Company reps also used misleading and aggressive sales methods on elderly and sick customers, the office added.

Companies have been warned that they could face fines, withdrawal of trading licenses, and the office could also fix maximum prices for household fuel bills if the abusive practices do not cease. “After some checks, we have started administrative proceedings and other steps with regard to some traders which will help improve this poor situation on the liberalized energy market,” Vitásková said.

The Czech gas and electricity markets are reckoned by some experts to be among the most fluid in Europe when it comes to customers switching to new suppliers. So far this year 164,278 electricity customers changed suppliers compared with around 143,000 in the same period in 2011. In the gas market, just over 109,000 customers changed suppliers in the year ending March compared with around 75,000 in the first quarter of 2011. 

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