Germans are a bargain hunter people, and the discount stamps from discounters are the greatest passion many people have for collecting. But what if Aldi stopped accepting his coupons just because they had bought some frozen food from Lidl and fruit from Rewe in the meantime. The Germans, they would be outraged, and they should be too now.
Because that’s exactly what Vattenfall is doing in a big way with its discounts: the energy company excludes new customers who have already been customers from its bonus programs and apparently change their electricity and gas contracts more often, what are called bonus hoppers.
To date, there is no uniform rule for these checks in accordance with the Data Protection Regulation. But one thing is clear: they should be banned.
First of all, it is the company’s fault that customers often and willingly change their contracts because they offer huge bonuses. You are therefore responsible for your problem yourself. Second, companies are not allowed to discriminate against customers just because they are making use of their rights. If this principle were to prevail everywhere, consumers would be more or less at the mercy of the economy. And third, consumer protection should of course not be undermined by the argument that business without protection is much more lucrative for companies. Because if everything is subject to the well-being of individual businesses, there will no longer be any social components of the social market economy. Politicians must intervene against this unbridled capitalism and stop the behavior of energy suppliers.
After all, the energy providers themselves launched the bonus game. Companies want to attract more and more new customers, always in the hope that they will stay for a long time and be profitable. Bonus hoppers, on the other hand, which are constantly changing and always reaping big bonuses, are a thorn in the side of businesses. Energy suppliers make little money out of it, as the bonus payment eats up the margin and the bonus hoppers disappear when the contract expires. The companies therefore argue that for economic reasons they should be allowed to refuse bonus hoppers. This argument is hypocritical. If you change your electricity and gas supplier, the bonuses are falling on you these days: bonus for digital conclusion, bonus for reporting meter readings – all that’s missing is a bonus for regularly stroking your heater.
It is a right to change supplier
But instead of acquiring new customers almost to ruin, energy providers could invest the money in bonuses and thus retain consumers over the long term. So that would also be what energy suppliers want: more profitable.
In addition, consumers have the right to freely choose their electricity and gas suppliers. It shouldn’t matter how often they change, as well as the power consumption, or whether someone needs a lot or a little power at particular times. Discriminate against the group of bonus hoppers because they exploit this right. The fact that it is still authorized today is a glaring omission that should be corrected as soon as possible.
Ultimately, the discussion of bonus hoppers leads to an even bigger question: What do we want to prioritize as a company? Do we want to use the sales and returns generated by a for-profit business as the primary metric in determining if something should be allowed? Or do we not want to prioritize consumer protection?
It’s understandable that companies first look at their performance, whether something is profitable and making money – and subordinate everything to that goal. Society cannot expect anything from them. To further protect consumer rights, data protectionists must therefore prevent discrimination against bonus sellers: a legal ban, no more and no less, is needed to prevent this practice.