By Helena Smolak

 

Italy's competition watchdog fined six energy providers more than 15 million euros ($16.3 million), saying that they prompted consumers to accept higher prices despite a government ban on unilateral price hikes for gas and electricity.

The Italian Competition Authority, or AGCM, said Wednesday that the companies overcharged consumers some time between Aug. 10, 2022 through June 2023, violating government directives that protected consumers from arbitrary price increases.

Enel Energia faces the maximum fine of EUR10 million, while Eni Plenitude must pay EUR5 million for raising prices without prior notice to more than 4 million customers, the authority said.

Acea Energia and Dolomiti Energia were fined EUR560,000 and EUR50,000 respectively, for not giving customers the required 90-day notice of price changes, it said.

Spanish company Iberdola's Italian unit was fined EUR25,000 after the regulator said it had threatened to cut off customers unless they accepted unfavorable contract changes. Edison Energia will need to pay the minimum penalty of EUR5,000 as it raised prices earlier than allowed but later reimbursed customers, the regulator said, also noting that the move only affected marginal number of customers.

Eni Plenitude reaffirmed the correctness of its actions, and reserved the right to appeal the measure, a spokesman told The Wall Street Journal.

Iberdrola will analyze the authority's decision, but believes that all its actions were in compliance with the law, a spokesperson said. Dolomiti Energia told The Wall Street Journal it has always acted correctly, noting its decision to pull back the contractual changes it had proposed, thus eliminating any negative impact on customers.

Enel said it merely renewed expiring economic conditions for customers as stipulated, without unilateral changes during the contract period. The company is confident it will be able to demonstrate the full correctness of its actions, and said it reserves the option to take legal action.

Edison declined to comment, and Acea Energia didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

Write to Helena Smolak at helena.smolak@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 15, 2023 08:24 ET (13:24 GMT)

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