Utilities in Spain: Facts and Myths

With prices on the up, scams on the rise, and more players entering the energy market, it pays to know the reality behind the hype regarding utilities in Spain. Take a look at our tips and make sure you know fact from fiction.

All bottled gas prices are fixed by the government  FALSE

Only the traditional (heavyweight) 12.5kg butane bottles and 11kg propane bottles are subject to official prices. But if you prefer lightweight gas bottles, the company can decide the price.

Compare different brands and providers and take into account any delivery charge.

Traditional gas bottles do not have a delivery charge, regardless of what the driver says! If you want to avoid delivery charges for lightweight bottles, you can usually buy them at your local petrol station.

If you’re locked into a 12-month contract and decide to change provider before the contract ends you have to pay a penalty  TRUE

To date many providers don’t bother to charge clients, but that doesn’t mean they can’t.

Increased competition from new entrants to the market, coupled with more savvy consumers, has led to a greater possibility for companies to lose clients. Tying a client in for 12 months is an attractive way to increase profits.

You can’t change your mind once you sign up for a new contract (tariff and/or provider  IT DEPENDS

Distance selling regulations allow 14 days for consumers to change their mind and cancel without having to give a reason. This applies only when the service was contracted online or by phone.

If you signed the contract at a company’s office and then change your mind, you may have to pay a penalty charge.

Online comparison sites are the best way to find the cheapest tariff  IT DEPENDS

Most comparison sites make money by receiving a commission for clicks made and contracts signed. This means they may promote tariffs that aren’t the best for your cicumstances. Additionally comparison sites may not include all companies in your area.

Use at least two or three comparison sites to find tariffs and take a look at more tips in our dedicated post: Reduce Your Electric Bill.

Gas inspections at home must be paid in cash  FALSE

Domestic gas installations must be checked every 5 years in Spain (except in the Basque Country where it’s every 4 years) and boilers checked every 2 years.

Official distributors, such as Iberdrola or Endesa, must inform households three months in advance regarding the inspection date. The cost is ALWAYS put on your gas bill and never paid to the technician carrying out the checks.

A common scam in Spain is for false inspectors to call at homes, pretend to check the installation and ask to be paid in cash. If you have any doubts, tell the visitor you’ll take a photo of their DNI (with your smartphone). If they’re scammers they’ll make their excuses and leave!

You can contract green energy  TRUE (but with a caveat!)

Lots of electricity companies in Spain advertise 100% green energy tariffs from renewable sources, which sounds great. However once electricity from all sources (green and traditional) enters the national grid, it can’t be separated.

In other words you can’t choose the type of power that’s used in your home, unless you’re off grid.

But as more consumers demand green energy, suppliers will have to increase production to meet demand.

You have to pay for smart meter installation  FALSE

Smart meter installation across Spain should be completed soon. Companies install the new meters free of charge. Even so, check your bill just in case they’ve tried to sneak it on! If there’s a charge, claim it back.

Unfortunately smart meter monthly rental charges are higher than for old meters.

Utility company reps always offer consumers the best tariff  FALSE

It’s no longer legal for people to cold call at your home, however some scammers will knock at your door to gain access to your personal details.

Companies often call offering you a discount on your current tariff, but beware! These discounts are nearly always linked to signing up for an additional maintenance contract, or some other service that you either don’t need or don’t want.

Avoid agreeing to anything over the phone unless you’re totally sure you know what’s being offered. Tell the caller you need time to think things over, make notes to ensure you’ve understood everything and ask for the details in writing.

Washing your car at home uses less water  FALSE

Although it may seem that your local petrol station car wash uses hundreds of litres of water, they have been designed to be eco-friendly.

The average car wash uses 30% less water than using a hosepipe at home and they also reuse water for initial rinses.

If you still want to wash your car at home, attach a sprinkler nozzle and button to use around 30 litres per wash.

And watch out for fines. Many towns in Spain fine people for washing their car in the street, anything from a symbolic 30€ up to 3000€ in big cities!