Electricity and gas are paid by consumers in advance, with the procedure for determining the amount of the advance payments determined by law. However, not all suppliers determine the amount of the advance payments correctly. So what number and amount of advances is right? And how can you defend yourself if you disagree with the amount of the advance payments?
When negotiating an electricity or gas supply contract, energy deposits are agreed, among other things. By law, the amount of the advance payment should be based on expected consumption, which means that it is based on historical consumption at the point of consumption. And, where appropriate, increases in energy prices are also taken into account.
The billing period is generally twelve months, into which the twelve monthly advances are spread. However, the supplier sometimes purposely sets lower prepayments to the consumer in order to give the false impression that the customer will pay less in energy. The consumer is then surprised when the supplier asks for a large outstanding amount at the end of the billing period. A similar practice is to ask for ten deposits instead of twelve, again with the consumer ending up paying the supplier a large arrears.
However, the opposite practice can also be encountered, where the supplier asks the consumer to make higher advances than necessary. “Some suppliers solve their financial problems by making large advances. When the supplier later becomes insolvent, it is difficult for the energy consumer to recover the overpayment,” says Lukáš Zelený, head of the legal department at consumer organisation dTest.
The supplier should only adjust the amount of the advance payment if there is a change in the energy supply price or if there is an increase in energy consumption at the point of consumption. Details on the determination of the amount of the advance payments are usually set out in the terms and conditions. ‘For example, there is a provision in the terms and conditions that the supplier has the right to adjust the amount of the advance payments if the consumer does not pay the advance payments on time or in the amount specified. The question is, however, to what extent such a supplier’s procedure complies with the law,” says Lukáš Zelený.
If a consumer is not satisfied with the amount or number of advances, they should first contact their supplier to request an adjustment to the advances, arguing that they should reflect as closely as possible the expected consumption. If the supplier refuses to adjust the prepayments, the consumer can contact the Energy Regulatory Authority.