It’s often a very little known fact that you easily switch gas providers in Germany, thereby saving you a few hundred of euros per year.
When moving in, you are often left with a “standard” utility provider (Grundversorger) which takes over if you don’t make any further decisions. In Berlin, Vattenfall/Gasag would be that company for example. Although it might look like a little trap, this is has the positive effect of avoiding a discontinued service: you will be able to heat your place up or have a hot shower, whatever happens.
You can save the equivalent of a nice 4-days trip to Barcelona, every year.
So why not taking care of it once and for all? Switching gas provides in Germany is easy, takes only a few weeks and involves no risk at all for you. If you are a bit blurry on the details on how to do that, i will share my experience step by step with you now.
Gas price crisis 2022-23
The current situation has led to incredible price surges and some customers are receiving very heavy bills from their German gas providers.
Here is what you should know:
- The war in Ukraine is driving up prices, and natural gas is more expensive than ever. Gas no longer flows to Germany from Russia.
- As of October 2022, a reduction in VAT on gas from 19 to 7 percent has been applied, to alleviate costs a little bit.
- Finding a cheaper contract is difficult at the moment. The local basic suppliers (Grundversorger) are often the cheapest option. Saving gas effectively lowers your costs.
- The federal government has stopped the gas surcharge and at the same time announced a gas price brake. From March 2023 you could get 80 percent of your gas consumption cheaper, although that’s not set in stone yet.
Here is how to react to a price increase:
- If you are subject of a price increase, you have a legal right to terminate your contract. It’s called “Sonderkündigungsrecht”. You must write a termination letter to your provider yourself. You can read a detailed guide on how to cancel your gas contract in Germay here.
- The best way to compare current prices is to use price comparison portals listed in this guide below. If you find a better offer, you can cancel your old contract
Quick overview of gas providers in Germany
Unsurprisingly, the market has become more fragmented ever since it was open to private competition. There are few dozens of companies sharing the market between them. Some big names you might already know of are Lekker, EnBW, Yello or Vattenfall. These are national players but you can also find regional players like Gasag in Berlin. Most of them have been bought by national players but some are still independent and provide an equally good service.
Some of the companies you will see are only consumer facing companies. This means that they are only selling utilities to you but they rely on other companies for sourcing, production and distribution. Other companies have everything integrated together. The infrastructure itself (pipes that bring the gas to your home) is almost always managed by another company than your German gas provider.
How to switch my gas provider in Germany and find better rates ?
The whole process to change contracts is actually rather straightforward and doesn’t require a whole lot of German. I have listed key terms under this article if you need, but since it’s similar to picking an internet provider, i’m sure you will do well here. There are a few price comparison websites to compare gas providers in Germany; i always like to recommend Verivox because the process is clear and the UI excellent, but Check24 or Preisvergleich.de are good contenders. Whatever you pick, here is how it goes.
The platform will take you through the following steps:
- Entering your postal code and picking your household size
- Listing all relevant plans
- Adjusting to your preference (e.g: Ökogas, local supplier or contract length)
- Filling-in your adress, contact details and banking details
- Confirm your choice online
- Receive your contract by post
Once everything has been given the green light, your new German gas provider will give a notice to your old one that billing is now going through them. You don’t need to let your old supplier know about the change. The only thing left to do is to pay the last remaining bill so your balance is cleared.
You might also be asked to fill in the numbers indicated on your gas meter (“Gaszähler”). This device is usually easy to find if you follow the pipes going to the hot water ballon or other installations you might have in your home. There are usually 2 numbers: your “Zählernummer” (Meter reference number) and “Zählerstand” (Meter consumption number, moving ones).
Pay attention to this before picking a contract
Most gas providers in Germany will let you pick the frequency with which you can pay your bills (“Abschläge”). It’s ranging from monthly to yearly. A higher billing frequency (more often) will result in a higher price overall, as it occurs more fees for the company to calculate and send it. Make sure to pay attention to this condition to avoid a massive yearly bill. If you cash flow is low, prefer a quarterly billing cycle, which is a good compromise.
The devil is in fine prints: Germany is sometimes not so good with flexible contract termination conditions (“Kündigungsfrist”). You need to keep an eye on this as well because some German gas providers require a termination loooooong in advance. Some others are even cleverer: once the termination notice has been given, the end of contract really happens only 6 months or a year after! Beware.
The price of gas is volatile and fluctuates a lot over the years, often increasing with time . This is why gas providers in Germany are attracting customers with price guarantees. In a nutshell; a fixed price for (x) months, regardless of gas price fluctuations (“Preisgarantie”). This is one of the major parameters to consider in your choice.
New customer bonuses
A far less relevant argument for you is new customer bonuses (“Neukundenbonus”). German utility companies are luring customers with the promise of receiving 200€ or more if signing up with them. This is quite common and although it sounds nice, i wouldn’t take this too much into account. They make it sound like they will give you money but it is just a discount on your first bill really. It can also sometimes hide a bad deal on the long run. Keep an eye out!
Take time to read the fine prints and use the comparison tools to navigate the market
Terms and vocabulary to know
Switching gas providers in Germany is unfortunately still done in the German language, you might need to know those terms (or else, make use of Google translate.)
- Postleitzahl : your postal code
- Verbrauch : your estimated consumption at home.
- Vertragslaufzeit : Contract duration.
- Mindestlaufzeit : Minimum contract duration.
- Verlängerung : Duration of the contract when (automatically) renewed
- Kündigungsfrist : Notice period – how much time in advance should the supplier be noticed of contract termination.
- Preisgarantie – Preisfixierung : Price guarantee as mentioned above (for x amount of months)
- Vorauskasse : Payment in advance (not advised, prefer monthly installments, see “Abschläge”).
- Nützung : Is this contract for your house (Privat) or your office – commercial (Gewerbe) space ?
- Ökogas : Gas coming from renewable sources
- Abschlagszahlung – Abschläge : Installments intervals
- Sofortbonus & Neukundenbonus : Bonuses for signing up a new contract.
- Gaszähler: Your gas meter
I hope all this info to switch gas providers in Germany is now clearer for you. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments if i haven’t answered all of them in this post. Also don’t forget you can do the same for electricity bills, a similar guide on this blog is available there.Bastien