BERLIN (Reuters) - The head of Germany's antitrust regulator says it may investigate energy suppliers amid consumer complaints about price hikes and possible abuse of a government energy price cap.
"We have already started to implement the ban on abuse. In particular, the planning of specific investigative measures is already well advanced," Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt was cited as saying by the Rheinische Post newspaper on Saturday.
Berlin last year introduced a 200 billion euro ($220.00 billion) relief package to help companies and households shoulder soaring electricity and gas bills following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a drop in Russian gas exports.
According to consumer portals, electricity and gas tariffs of some suppliers across Germany are above the government caps despite falling global gas prices compared to last summer and there are concerns that some suppliers are increasing prices to benefit from billions of euros of government subsidies.
Critics say price caps deprive households from an incentive to switch for cheaper energy suppliers as the cap would automatically apply and the government would simply pay the difference.
Mundt said his office has received a four-digit number of complaints about energy prices since the end of 2022.
"It is anything but trivial to find the black sheep among thousands of suppliers with a wide variety of tariffs," Mundt added.
($1 = 0.9091 euros)
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Mike Harrison)