On January 26, 2022, the court ruled in a case that Municipal Heating Foundation Eindhoven brought against energy company Ennatuurlijk in 2019. The court stated that Ennatuurlijk wrongly charges an annual connection fee to households connected to municipal heating. This is good news for many users of municipal heating in Eindhoven.
Update: On April 25, 2022, Municipal Heating Foundation Eindhoven had a meeting with Ennatuurlijk. In this meeting Ennatuurlijk announced that it will appeal against the court ruling of January 26, 2022. We regret that Ennatuurlijk is appealing, but are not surprised that the company is taking this decision since the financial consequences for Ennatuurlijk are significant. As a result of the appeal, possible reimbursement of the annual connection fee will be further delayed. However, we look forward to the outcome of the appeal with confidence. Residents who have registrered at Municipal Heating Foundation Eindhoven will be informed soon in more detail about the next steps.
What was it about again?
Ennatuurlijk charges most households with municipal heating for 30 years an interest-bearing and also indexed ‘connection fee’. After a term of 30 years, this sums up to an amount of approximately 5000 euros per household. This is in addition to the connection costs that residents have already paid to have their homes connected to the heat network. The first owners of a self-built home paid the connection costs at the time directly to Ennatuurlijk or its legal predecessors (Essent, NRE, PNEM, ECM). For project homes, the connection costs were included in the purchase price of the house and the project developer paid the connection costs directly to (the legal predecessor of) Ennatuurlijk. In our opinion, the annual connection fee has not been agreed with the residents.
Since discussions with Ennatuurlijk were unsuccessful, we sued Ennatuurlijk in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court hearing did not take place until 16 February 2021. The ruling was postponed several times, but today the court ruled in our favour. The ruling applies to residents (owners and tenants) who have (had) a connection to the heat network of Ennatuurlijk (or its legal predecessors) before 1 January 2014, for which an annual connection fee is (or has been) charged. The ruling does not apply to residents who have entered into an agreement with Ennatuurlijk after 1 January 2014. As of January 2014 the Warmtewet (Heat Act) has entered into force. Since then, Ennatuurlijk has not charged an annual connection fee for new connections, or this connection fee has been explicitly stated in the delivery contract. The ruling does also not apply to residents who have not previously accepted Ennatuurlijk’s offer to phase out the annual connection fee in three years. You can read the ruling on Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch).
Ennatuurlijk has announced in a press release that it is surprised by the court ruling. The energy company is studying the ruling with its legal advisors and is considering an appeal. At the same time, Ennatuurlijk is calling on (former) customers to contact the company if they believe that the court ruling applies to them.
We advise you to take the following steps:
- Go to the website www.ennatuurlijk.nl/vonnis-rechtbank-periodieke-aansluitbijdrage.
- Check to what extent you satisfy the conditions stated on the site. (At the time of writing this update, Ennatuurlijk erroneously refers to ‘disconnection costs’ but they mean ‘connection costs’).
- Complete the web form if you meet the conditions and press ‘Verzend’ (Send). You will receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail from Ennatuurlijk.
- Do not take any further action and wait for our instructions.
Residents who are members of the collective of Municipal Heating Foundation Eindhoven will soon receive further instructions on how to proceed.
Have you signed a VSO before?
One of the conditions imposed by Ennatuurlijk is that you have not previously signed a so-called settlement agreement – in Dutch: vaststellingsovereenkomst (VSO). This means that it makes no sense to complete the web form if you belong to one of the following groups of residents:
- Owners or tenants who in 2016 or later accepted Ennatuurlijk’s offer to reduce the annual connection fee to zero euros over three years. By signing a VSO, these residents waived their right to reclaim the annual connection fees already paid at a later date.
- First owners of a self-built home who signed a VSO in 2019 or later on our advice. They have already received back the annual connection fees and are now no longer paying annual connection fees.
Municipal Heating Foundation Eindhoven has been campaigning since 2015 against unjustified costs for district heating, including the annual connection fee, the high heating tariffs and the rental of the delivery set. In order to take decisive action and pay the costs of legal proceedings, the foundation started a collective action in 2018. The court has now ruled on the annual connection fee. The other points of dispute are still open. Residents can still join the collective. Muncipal Heating Foundation Eindhoven is (financially) supported by Residents’ Association Meerhoven. Members therefore receive a discount.