THE UNLAWFUL PROPOSAL FOR AMENDMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE CONTRACTS BY BUDAPESTI ELEKTROMOS MŰVEK RT.
In its decision the Competition Council stated, that Budapesti Elektromos Művek Rt. (Budapest Electricity Works, hereinafter ELMŰ) had abused its dominant position by proposing an amendment of public service contracts, while its refusal by consumers had detrimental effects. The Competition Council imposed a fine of 2.000.000 HUF.
ELMŰ is one of the six regional suppliers of electricity with exclusive right granted by Act No. XLVIII of 1994 on Electric Energy. According to the regulation of electric energy supply, by the virtue of a public service contract, the supplier has the obligation of supply, while the consumer has the obligation to pay the equivalent of its consumption in cash when the invoice is presented or within 8 days by transfer order. Although not written in the contract, in the practice the employee of ELMŰ read the electric meter monthly. If the consumers did not make possible the reading, ELMŰ received the data at the consumers`expense.
ELMŰ plans to introduce a new system of meter reading in this year. The supplier calculates the consumption of the previous year with the actual prices and requests it from the consumer divided in twelve parts by mail (at ELMŰ`s costs) or bank transfer. The new system has reciprocal advantages like security and comfort. During the introduction, in the second half of the year, consumers have to pay on unrequited way, until the high consumption period of winter. After that the unrequited payment turns into unrequited supply. In the end, the over- and underpayments equalise each other. The actual detriment of the consumer is approximately one thousandth of the equivalent of the annual consumption.
To introduce the new system, the regulation in force prescribes a mutual consent on the amendment of the public service contract. ELMŰ reached the agreement of 1,2 million consumers, after informing them personally about the features of the new system, drawing their attention to the fact, that without written demand on the monthly system, the contract is regarded as amended with mutual consent. ELMŰ failed to enclose addressed envelopes, moreover gave a telephone-number, on which consumers could inquire only at own costs. Although ELMŰ afterwards sent 600.000 addressed envelopes, this does not alters the situation, that an unknown number of consumers, who chose the monthly system, suffered material damage. Furthermore those, who chose the old system, got the information that the reading of the meter will be their duty with the obligation of communicating it to ELMŰ at own costs, while the cash payment will not be available.
The Competition Council stated that the consumers are in subordinate position in the relation ELMŰ, because of its monopolistic role in its supply area. The Competition Council also stated, that the new partial invoice system is up-to-date, the introduction is reasonable, notwithstanding that during the transitional period the consumers have to pay unrequitedly.
The Competition Council considered as stipulating unjustified advantages (Tpvt. Art. 21(a)) and as influencing business decisions of the other party in order to gain unjustified advantages (Tpvt. Art. 21(d)), that consumers, not given an addressed envelope by ELMŰ were compelled to object the new system at their own costs, or , consumers choosing the old system, should have told the position of the meter also at own costs. In addition, the applied system infringes the general prohibition of abuse of dominant position, because the competition rules, regarding ELMŰ`s dominant position prescribe a more careful amendment process.
Considering the revision of the damaging conduct by ELMŰ the Competition Council imposed a symbolic fine.
October 3, 2000. Budapest
dr. Kállai Mária sk. előadó
dr. Györffy István sk.
dr. Bodócsi András sk.