The Consumer Ombudsman has submitted a group complaint to the Consumer Disputes Board concerning the data hub fees of electricity company Väre Oy. Väre started charging its customers separate data hub fees in June 2022, even though the Consumer Ombudsman had demanded that the company waive the fees. The electricity company cannot change fixed-term contracts, for instance by adding new costs to them.
Väre has added two types of new fees to the invoices for fixed-term electricity contracts, a one-off data hub commissioning fee of EUR 3.72 and a continuous data hub fee of EUR 0.23 per month. According to the company, these are “administrative fees”, and they have been justified with the introduction of a data hub and changes in legislation. The Datahub is a centralised system introduced in February 2022 for exchanging information on the retail electricity market.
The Consumer Advisory Services of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and the Consumer Ombudsman have been contacted a total of 140 times by consumers concerning Väre Oy’s data hub fees. In particular, consumers have pointed out that fees have also been added to fixed-price and fixed-term contracts.
“Even if electricity providers incur additional obligations and costs, it is clear that this does not justify a change to fixed-term contracts and charging consumers directly.”
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority is not aware that any other electricity company has acted in a similar manner. Instead, the industry has complied with the established principle that fixed-term contracts are binding as such.
Requirement to waive data hub fees and refund money
In correspondence with the company in spring 2022, the Consumer Ombudsman demanded that Väre waive data hub fees. However, when Väre still started charging these fees in June 2022, the Consumer Ombudsman decided to refer the matter to the Consumer Disputes Board as a group complaint. With a group complaint , the Consumer Ombudsman may apply to the Consumer Disputes Board for a resolution in principle in a case where several consumers have a similar demand for a certain company, and the matter can be resolved by a single decision.
The Consumer Ombudsman calls for the Consumer Disputes Board to recommend Väre Oy not to charge data hub fees and to refund data hub fees to the extent that customers have already paid them. The group complaint concerns customers with a fixed-term contract. A group complaint does not require consumers to register or to take other measures.