The high energy costs are forcing citizens and businesses to their knees. From January 1, important cushioning is now in sight – but only for part of the consumption. But what actually happens when you are stuck in a cheap tariff? FOCUS online provides the most important answers.

The new gas and electricity price brake applies retrospectively to January 1st from March 1st. They bring much-needed relief to millions of customers in the new year.

The price brake stipulates that energy suppliers must cap electricity and gas prices. However, there is an important catch. The two price brakes only apply to 80 percent of the previous year’s consumption of electricity and gas. For the remaining 20 percent, the fixed working price does not apply.

When it comes to electricity, energy providers are not allowed to charge more than 40 cents per kilowatt hour for 80 percent of consumption. It is 12 cents per kilowatt hour for gas and 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour for district heating.

The electricity price brake will apply from March 1st, but the calculation will then be retroactive to January 1st. Conversely, this means that consumers pay in advance in January and February and are then reimbursed the respective price brake in the form of a credit note.

In principle, the price brake becomes visible with the final invoice. Consumers don’t have to worry about anything. Either the energy supplier or the landlord calculate the gas and electricity deduction on the new basis.

If you pay less than 40 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, less than 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour for district heating and less than 12 cents per kilowatt hour for gas, you are among the people who do not benefit from the price brakes. You then pay for your consumption without the help of the state.

For example, if you pay 33 cents per kilowatt hour, it stays that way. The price does not increase to 40 cents due to the price brake.

Apparently, the federal government is planning an expensive ban in addition to the electricity price brake on January 1st.

There is a catch, however.

The ban may only apply to price increases announced on January 1st. However, most municipal utilities, municipal utilities and energy providers are already announcing price adjustments because they have to be announced at least six weeks in advance.

According to the drafts, price increases should be banned throughout 2023 – unless suppliers can prove “that the increase is objectively justified”. This applies, for example, when “market-based price and cost developments” make this necessary. Not every increase is therefore automatically illegal, the ministry explained. Rather, the expensive ban only applies to increases that are “abusive and unjustified”.

Basically, the ban provides that energy suppliers must explain to the Federal Cartel Office exactly why they are raising the price.

If price increases are to come in early January, they would have to be announced four to six weeks in advance.

In fact, these price announcements would now also be directly covered by the planned brake rules: As far as the amount is concerned, actual procurement costs could be passed on, but not further abusive increases.

A wave with sometimes significant increases at the beginning of the year is already emerging, as comparison portals and consumer advocates are observing. The price surcharges vary from region to region.

The head of the Federation of Energy Consumers, Leonora Holling, told the “Bild” newspaper (Saturday): “We advise consumers to lodge an objection.” The planned increases are not in proportion to the price development on the stock exchange.

Respond and check for possible errors.

Do you have a price guarantee contract? Then the adjustment is also ineffective, says the Federal Consumer Association.

If the provider remains stubborn: terminate the direct debit procedure and contact the consumer advice center or a lawyer.

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If you receive a letter about a price increase, you should read it carefully and pay attention to the details.

Make sure that the stated consumption, the prices, the amount of the new deductions and any bonus payments or discounts have been entered correctly, as these items on the invoice can often be incorrect.

Keep in mind that if you adjust the price, you will have to increase the down payment yourself.

The energy supplier may not adjust the deduction himself. If the electricity provider has increased the deduction, you should ask for clarification in writing.

It is definitely worth checking whether there is a cheaper tariff. This can either be with the same provider or you can inquire online about possible alternatives. Note that basic suppliers often have lower tariffs than supposedly cheap providers.

Comparison portals such as the electricity price comparison from FOCUS online, a call to the energy supplier or simple research can help.

“The prices in the basic electricity and gas supply are currently lower than the prices for special contracts,” explains Rico Dulinski from the Brandenburg Consumer Center in Potsdam.