Fraudsters abuse the price ceiling on energy to sign disadvantageous contracts

Fraudsters abuse the price ceiling on energy to sign unworthy contracts

ČEZ headquarters in Prague – illustrative photo.

Prague – Unfair practices of fraudulent traders, so-called energy scammers, are once again spreading on the energy market. They started abusing the capped prices of electricity and gas, which they use as an excuse to sign often disadvantageous contracts. At the same time, they threaten clients with, for example, disconnection from the supply, warned the energy company ČEZ. The price ceiling for energy has been in effect since the beginning of this year, customers get it automatically. Some suppliers have already started offering prices below the ceiling.

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Due to high energy prices on the market, the government introduced a price ceiling for electricity and gas for the whole of this year. It is set at 6,000 crowns for one megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity including VAT and 3,000 crowns for one MWh of gas. Distribution fees need to be added to this. The so-called ceilings apply to households, companies and public institutions. At the same time, all customers are entitled to it automatically, so they do not have to apply for it in any way.

Even so, the price ceiling according to ČEZ has recently started to be abused by some fraudulent traders. According to the company, they approach customers saying that they will not receive state support without signing the offered documents. “But instead, the customer will get to sign a contract with a new supplier, which is less advantageous for him compared to the current contract,” the company said. According to her, some fraudsters pose as employees of state authorities or ČEZ.

“In recent weeks, customers have been alerting us to the increased activity of door-to-door fraudsters with energy, from whom there has been more calm recently. But now, unfortunately, they have found new tricks and are abusing government ceilings to force especially seniors and other vulnerable customers to sign contracts,” he said CEO of ČEZ Prodej Tomáš Kadlec.

“The most typical sign of energy fraudsters is the attempt to get the customer to sign the contract as quickly as possible without having time to read it properly. A decent businessman whose offer is really advantageous will let the customer enough time to study it,” Kadlec further pointed out. In similar situations, clients are advised to verify the identity of the employee on the company's helpline.

The Energy Regulatory Office (ERÚ) also recently drew attention to unfair practices of some suppliers. According to the authority, some suppliers threaten consumers to disconnect their electricity or gas supply point after the consumer fails to pay a single deposit. However, according to the office, such a procedure may be in violation of the law, because the violation of the payment obligation should be repeated and should only be threatened when the consumer fails to pay at least two different payments for energy.

The company Pražská energetika (PRE) recently recorded several attempts at so-called phishing, when its clients received fake messages. In them, fraudsters pretending to be PRE fraudulently tried to lure recipients with their access bank details. “We have filed a criminal complaint against an unknown perpetrator and are warning customers about this danger on our website,” said PRE spokesman Karel Hanzelka.

The company E.ON also noted an increase in cases of unfair practices by the so-called energy fraudsters, which also warned against the abuse of price ceilings. “Hundreds of clients contact us every year with requests for help, but we estimate that we won't even find out about most of the attempts that energy scammers implement,” Rudolf Uzlík, head of service processes at E.ON Energie, told ČTK. According to the company, fraudsters pose as E.ON employees and force customers to sign documents that are actually contracts with a new supplier or power of attorney to intermediaries. According to the company, there are also problems with contracts that were concluded on the basis of authorization, often several years or months ago, which some traders or intermediaries are now reselling among themselves and clients are unable to contact them.

A number of energy suppliers started in in recent weeks to offer electricity and gas prices below the government ceiling. Below-ceiling prices have already been announced by suppliers such as E.ON, innogy, MND or Centropol, who have already started offering reduced rates for some tariffs. ČEZ also introduced the new tariff, which, however, expects to reduce prices only from next year.