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MONEY

EXPLAINED: How to change electricity and gas providers in Germany

With energy prices in Germany continuing to rise, we explain how you can try to get the best deal for your home by changing suppliers. 

EXPLAINED: How to change electricity and gas providers in Germany
An electric plug on top of a pile of Euro coins and notes. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Kai Remmers

According to the Federal Ministry of Economics, the price of electricity in Germany is currently at a record high of 32.63 cents per kilowatt-hour, and gas prices are being driven ever higher by restricted supplies and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If you think you might be missing out on a better deal, here’s how you can secure the best tariff for your home by switching to another supplier. 

Easier than you think 

Some may be put off by the idea of changing energy suppliers due to concerns that the process will be complicated and that they may be left without energy while changing providers. But in Germany, there is a legally guaranteed basic supply, meaning you will be supplied by the so-called basic supplier in your area during any changeover period. (Don’t switch too close to the deadline though, as this can get expensive.) Also, technically speaking, a change of supplier does not change the electricity or gas for your household, meaning no one has to come to your home and the change is free of charge.

Contract termination

The time at which you can change your electricity or gas supplier depends on your current contract. Different notice periods apply depending on whether you are a customer of a basic supplier, an alternative supplier or have a special right of termination.

If you are a customer of a basic supplier and have never changed your provider, you can change your gas or electricity supplier at any time. In this case, you have two weeks’ notice before the contract with your new supplier can start.

If you are a customer of an alternative provider – which is the case with most people –  you are bound by certain deadlines and you will need to pay attention to the minimum contract period and the notice period in your contract.

READ ALSO: Moving house in Germany: 7 things you need to know about setting up utility contracts

Many contracts will run for a minimum of one year, after which they are automatically extended. In this case, it is very important to pay attention to the notice period in your contract, as, once the period expires, the contract will be extended by another year. You should therefore act in good time and can initiate the change of provider up to six months before the contract expires. The termination of the old contract is usually taken over by the new supplier, who then directly takes over the supply as soon as the old contract has expired.

In certain circumstances, a so-called special termination right can apply – meaning you can terminate your contract without having to observe the usual contract or notice periods. Moving house, for example, is a special situation for which this rule applies. Another is if your provider announces a price increase, in which case you have the option of exercising a special right of termination. In this case, the notice period is usually two weeks from the announcement In these cases, it is best to send the termination notice yourself, rather than getting your new provider to do so on your behalf. You can inform the new provider that you have cancelled your current contract yourself by adding a note to the order.

The new electricity or gas contract usually comes into effect as soon as the new supplier has sent you a contract confirmation with the expected start of delivery.

The previous provider then has up to six weeks after the end of delivery to issue a final invoice.

Search for other offers

There are numerous electricity price comparison sites that you can use to find out if you are paying too much for your energy: Check24 and Verifox are two of the biggest ones. 

The websites offer tariff calculators, which enable you to see what other suppliers offer for the same level of consumption in your area. To use these calculators, you should have your postcode and your annual electricity consumption at hand – which you can find in your last gas or electricity bill. 

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to help households cope with rising costs

When researching electricity and gas contracts, you should not only pay attention to the prices, but also carefully check the terms and conditions of the contracts on offer. The shorter the terms and periods of notice, the more flexible you are as a customer – meaning you can act quickly and without complications if you decide you need to change again.

Be careful with suppliers who offer favourable rates in return for an advance payment or a deposit as, if the company goes bankrupt, it is almost impossible to get the money back. Also, watch out for package prices: here, the price is linked to a certain amount of consumption and if you try to save electricity by using less energy, you don’t get your money back, but if you use more energy, you still have to pay more. 

Once you have found a suitable offer, check on the provider’s website whether the details match those in the price comparison calculator. If there are discrepancies, ask the provider directly.

Making the switch

Before changing to another provider, it’s worth contacting your current supplier and asking if they can make you a better offer. Before calling, have the details of any better tariffs you have found to hand so that you have a good basis for negotiation.

If you decide to go ahead and change supplier, you can either conclude the new contract directly with the new provider or, in some cases, via the tariff portal, though the portal usually charges a fee for this service. In any case, the new provider will terminate your previous contract on your behalf if you sign the power of attorney allowing them to do so.

READ ALSO: Electricity bills in Germany – how to keep your costs down

Useful Vocabulary:

electricity supplier – (der) Stromanbieter

basic (energy) supply – (die) Grundversorgung  

electricity price comparison – (der) Strompreisvergleich  

 tariff calculator – (der) Tarifrechner

contractual period – (die) Vertragsdauer

notice period – (die) Kündigungsfrist

special termination right – (das) Sonderkündigungsrecht 

power of attorney – (die) Vollmacht

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

In our weekend roundup for Germany we look at exploring the country this summer, the country's obsession with cash and some facts about North Rhine-Westphalia, which goes to the polls on Sunday.

Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

A chance to explore Germany 

Although we’re still in the pandemic, it feels like life in Germany is beginning to feel a bit more like it did before Covid hit us. With many restrictions easing, people have been really enjoying spring and looking forward to summer.  So it’s no surprise that many of you have been reading our stories about travel. Our articles on the €9 monthly ticket as well as train travel in Germany and beyond have been particularly popular. The public transport offer will also give many people the chance to explore closer to home. I know I am really looking forward to seeing more of Germany, whether it’s around the Brandenburg area near where I live, or going further afield (Heidelberg, I’m looking at you). I’d love to know if you want to use the €9 ticket or if you have any plans to explore Germany this summer. Please fill in this survey on the €9 ticket (it’s open until Monday) and get in touch with your opinions or other travel plans by emailing [email protected]. Thanks so much to those of you who’ve already been in touch.

Tweet of the week

The German love of cash or Bargeld in 2022 while the rest of the world goes contactless is indeed one of life’s greatest mysteries, as this tweet highlights. We’ll definitely be using our ‘ask a German’ series to try and find out more about this habit… 

Where is this? 

Pankstrasse U-Bahn
Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Berliners or those who’ve visited the capital may recognise this U-Bahn station which is situated in the north. The station is actually part of the Pankstrasse nuclear fallout shelter. Built in 1977 during the Cold War, this “multi-purpose” facility was intended to protect the citizens of West Berlin in case of a nuclear conflict. The bunker serves not only as an U-Bahn stop for commuters but also, in an emergency, could have sheltered 3,339 people for up to two weeks. For those interested, we’d recommend checking out a tour like those run by Berliner Untervelten E.V. Due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to massive tension between Europe and Russia, the tours have become even more topical.

Did you know?

Since people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) or Nordrhein Westfalen are going to the polls this Sunday, we thought we’d look at some facts about this western state. This is Germany’s most populated state with about 17.9 million people. It’s also home to the most foreigners – around 2.5 million non-Germans live in NRW. With cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen, the state is a culturally rich and diverse part of Germany. Many people don’t know that Bonn was the capital of the former West Germany all the way up to reunification, before Berlin took the title. Many federal buildings and institutions still have their base there. 

The state is led by Christian Democrat Hendrik Wüst who took over last year after Armin Laschet resigned as state premier following his unsuccessful federal election bid. The CDU is currently in a coalition with the Free Democrats. But it looks like change is on the horizon. The CDU and the Social Democrats are both polling at around 30 percent, with the CDU having a slight lead of two to four percentage points. Meanwhile, the FDP appears to have lost support. It’s going to be a tight race – and the Greens party – polling at around 17 percent – will likely be the kingmakers. Important topics for voters include the future of German industry, and how to secure jobs in the move to renewable energy. Many people see this election as a test for the federal government which is led by the SPD’s Olaf Scholz. 

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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