GASAG Prevails Against Consumer Protection Agency in Gas Price Dispute

A Berlin consumer protection agency had tried to bring a class action (Sammelklage) against the gas provider Gasag for more than 100 customers to reclaim allegedly overpaid gas bills. After the Regional Court of Berlin (Landgericht Berlin) expressed doubts whether the consumer organization had standing (Klagebefugnis), the plaintiff did not follow through with his case, and the court pronounced a judgement of default (Versäumisurteil) against the consumer organisation.

The consumer protection agency represented 104 Gasag customers who had concluded certain flexible gas tariff agreements with Gasag. Price adjustments of up to 15% from 2005 to 2009 have been declared illegal by the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH). The court had held that the price adjustment clause was void. Still Gasag denied to generally refund customers. Gasag’s price adjustment clauses have repeatedly been challenged in court. In September 2010 the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) did not admit two constitutional complaints by Gasag for decision. The BVerfG held that the rulings of the Federal Supreme Court that had declared a price adjustment clause void did not violate the plaintiff’s constitutional right of occupational freedom.

In the case heard at the Regional Court of Berlin, the court doubted plaintiff’s standing, since “plaintiff lacked a own economic interest in the matter”. German law in principle does not allow class actions. Only in very limited situations are  certain associations allowed to take legal action for a group of people.

Source: Berliner UmschauRBB,

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