Die Welt (Germany)
Green Germany: Half A Million Families Sitting In The DarkHunderttausenden Haushalten wird der Strom gesperrt
Many households in Germany are no longer able to pay their electricity bills. As a result, around half a million households are sitting in the dark.
The sharp price increases for electricity and gas is leading to serious payment problems for more and more consumers – even to dark apartments. Because of unpaid bills an estimated 600,000 households in Germany had their power cut off in 2010, said the consumer watch dog Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen which is based in Düsseldorf. This estimate is based on a survey of local energy providers in Germany’s most populous state.
"Price increases of around 15 percent for electricity and gas in the past two years have made energy for many households unaffordable", said CEO Klaus Mueller. The increasing fuel poverty is alarming. What is more, ever tighter household budgets and regularly lacking competence in keeping personal finances in check are turning claims arising from unpaid energy bills quickly into an insurmountable cost trap.
Three-quarters of the 58 companies that responded to questions from the NRW consumer group reported growing problems related to energy debt and power outages. In 2010, the surveyed utilities in North Rhine-Westphalia alone sent out three million reminders for unpaid electricity bill. They issued 340,000 blocking threats and cut off power to 62,000 customers.
According to extrapolations by consumer protection groups, power has been cut off to about 120,000 households in NRW alone and to about 600,000 households nationwide. The estimates of the energy companies are consistent with the experience of the consumer advocates. A spokeswoman from the NRW consumer watch dog added that their consumer advice increasingly focuses on the question of how to comply with payment obligations towards energy suppliers.