The Provincial Court of A Coruña has condemned Fenosa and Gas Natural, currently part of the Naturgy group, for abusive practices in the repeated preparation of invoices for estimated consumption, without applying the actual reading of energy consumption. The ruling, which can be appealed to the Supreme Court, also prohibits companies from charging their clients for the rent of meters without informing the reasons that justify those charges. In addition, the court gives companies a period of three months to present to the court a plan to stop this type of practice. If after this period, the companies do not present this plan, they will have to pay a fine of 40,000 euros for each day of delay.
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The procedure originates from a lawsuit filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in which a collective action was brought against these two companies that are part of the same business group that operates in the electricity sector. Unión Fenosa was dedicated to the distribution of electrical energy and Gas Natural was the trading company, which issued the invoices to its customers with the data provided by the distributor.
The lawsuit was based on the fact that the distributor had repeatedly failed to comply with the obligation to take readings of the customers’ actual electricity consumption. These incidents determined that the marketer billed for estimated consumption beyond the two-month period allowed by the applicable sectoral regulations. In addition, the marketer, despite issuing invoices that did not include actual consumption, continued to collect the meter rent from consumers and the specific reasons for this practice were not reported on any invoice.
In the judgment, the conduct consisting of not making the actual consumption readings and also issuing and issuing bills that include estimated electricity consumption is declared abusive. The collection of the meter’s rent on bills with estimated consumption and the absence of information on the reasons why the actual consumption has not been taken into account is also declared abusive. Thus giving the reason to the Public Prosecutor’s Office that considered that there has been a clear imbalance between the rights and obligations of the parties, taking into account that “the defendants are leading companies in the energy sector from whom a high quality standard must be demanded, and that produce an unquestionable damage to consumers due to the accumulation of the cost of invoices and the payment of services that have not been provided ”.
The ruling includes the prohibition for the defendants to make readings of estimated consumption, as well as to issue and issue invoices with said consumption, except in the cases provided for by law. It also establishes the “link to their pronouncements of natural or legal persons who engage in the same practice even though they have not been a party to the process.”
The ruling imposes on companies the obligation to inform the Court about the measures adopted to prevent the repetition of these behaviors in the future and sets a period of 3 months for compliance, imposing a coercive fine of 40,000 euros for each day of delay in compliance with it.
The times that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the electricity companies
The sentence is not final and can be appealed to the Supreme Court. elDiario.es has contacted Naturgy to find out their plans after the ruling and if they plan to file an appeal. The company has indicated that its legal teams are analyzing the content of the court decision.
On previous occasions the high court ruled in favor of the electricity companies in similar cases. In 2017, the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court annulled a fine of 600,000 euros imposed in December 2011 by the Community of Madrid to “Iberdrola Comercialización de Último Recurso, SAU”, for billing users for estimating the electricity consumption made, what he understood to be services not provided effectively.
The Supreme Court then upheld Iberdrola’s appeal and reversed the judgment of the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid, which had confirmed the fine.