The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication and the Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet) are looking at how the extent to which significant fines issued following early termination of fixed-price electricity contracts by customers are justified.
The Competition Authority says that in the current energy crisis, such fines should be reimbursed to consumers.
In the case of fixed-price contracts over multiple years, these fines can range from a few hundred euros to as much as tens of thousands of euros (these contracts would include those to commercial customers – ed.).
IT and foreign trade minister Kristjan Järvan (Isamaa) says that energy companies themselves are responsible for any curbing of fines, while consumer protection bodies would intervene only where necessary.
"There are already fundamental limits as things stand; fines cannot be plucked out of thin air," Järvan told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Tuesday, adding that: "If we look today at [state electricity generator] Eesti Energia fines, of up to €35,000, I have my doubts about the justification for this. If these are not justified, consumer protection would already step in here."
Järvan also said that no certain measures by the state to curb such fines have been finalized yet.
He said: "So far as I know the details are being worked on currently. We will listen to both sides, and make an appropriate decision based on this."
The main consumer watchdog in Estonia, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), declined to comment to AK on the issue and referred the reporters to the Competition Authority.
The latter says in turn that the situation will be clarified over the next few days, when meetings with the electricity providers are finished.
The Competition Authority itself supports the possibility of changing the contract without fines.
Margues Kasepalu, head of the authority's energy and infrastrucutre department, told AK that: "Yes, we have already discussed the potential fines. That said, such fines are not always obligatory; there are always options. We are supportive of the fact that, at least in the current conditions, consumers be compensated for fines."
Kasepalu added that, before the relevant decisions have been made, it might be wise for consumers to refrain from changing contracts.
Kasepalu said that before making decisions, people could refrain from changing contracts.
Eesti Energia, Estonia's largest electricity supplier, declined to give comment to AK on the issue.
Editor: Andrew Whyte