Utilities in Germany have had to handle a surge in customer service calls in recent weeks from clients angry or desperate about their sky-rocketing energy bills, Reuters reports.
The biggest utility, E.ON, has ramped up its capacity to handle calls from consumers who are shocked to find just how much their energy bills have surged in recent months.
Gas prices in Europe are very high and power prices in many countries, including Germany, have hit record levels this summer after Russia choked pipeline gas supply to Europe and shut down indefinitely the key gas export pipeline to Germany, Nord Stream, at the beginning of this month.
“Some become aggressive out of frustration, others are in tears and need psychological support,” Ingbert Liebing, head of local utilities organization VKU, told Reuters, commenting on the spike in customer calls to utilities’ service centers.
Apart from already high energy bills, German customers will have a surcharge as of October, as part of a government plan to implement a so-called gas levy on consumers in order to help struggling energy firms.
Germany has recently announced it would impose a gas levy on consumers from October 1 through March 2024 as it aims to help energy providers and importers of natural gas, which are struggling with low Russian gas supply and very expensive alternatives to Russian gas. The new natural gas tax is set to cost German families, who will have to foot the bill for the tax, an extra $500 a year.
Meanwhile, the German government is in talks with the biggest German importer of natural gas, Uniper, to potentially lift its 30% stake in the company to majority participation or to nationalize the firm. The German government agreed in July on a $15 billion bailout package to help the energy giant, which has been reeling from reduced Russian gas supply and soaring prices of non-Russian gas. Under the package, the German government bought a 30% stake in Uniper and made available further capital to help the company.
“The deteriorating operating environment and Uniper’s financial situation have to be taken into account while Fortum, the German government and Uniper continue their discussions on a long-term solution for Uniper,” Uniper’s parent firm, Finland-based Fortum, said in a statement earlier this week.