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Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure AT-2020-12/580 Updated – measures in Austria

No energy shutdown when payment difficulties occur

Keine Energieabschaltung bei Zahlungsschwierigkeiten

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 16 March 2020 – 31 March 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Non-binding recommendations or other texts
Category Measures to prevent social hardship
– Keeping or obtaining a safe home
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Measure added 13 April 2020 (updated 06 June 2022)

Background information

In the COVID-19 crisis, not only is the fear of a breakdown in the country's power supply increasing. Many people are even more concerned with how they should pay their next electricity bill.

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Green Party) and Wolfgang Urbantschitsch (Board Member of E-Control) explained why these concerns are unfounded. Even if there are payment difficulties, there will be no shutdowns on the part of the energy suppliers.

Content of measure

Until further notice, in any case until 1 May 2020, 'no one in Austria will turn off electricity, gas or heat,' the Minister and the E-Control board assured. This applies to the population, but also to micro and small companies. Energy minister Ms Gewessler said it was a quick and unbureaucratic consensus in the industry. 'This is a good and important contribution,' said the Green politician. However, this is not a legally fixed regulation. The energy suppliers would share the risk with the network operators, said the minister responsible for energy and the environment. According to Urbantschitsch, it is also possible to arrange a deferral of payments or an instalment plan with the utilities, or at most a reduction of advance payments for companies, since there is a reduction in energy consumption for company closings.

Chamber of Labour AK favours legal regulation

The major energy suppliers for electricity and gas have already announced that they will not switch off during the COVID-19 crisis. The AK also expressly welcomes this voluntary principal. "But all energy suppliers, including small and above all local and district heating suppliers, have to be brought on board," says Christa Schlager , head of the economic policy department at the AK. That seems to have succeeded with Thursday's agreement.

According to E-Control, there were around 43,000 shutdowns in electricity and around 4,000 in gas in 2018. There are no official shutdown figures for the heating sector, but one thing is certain: In Austria around 140,000 people could not afford to keep their home sufficiently warm in 2018. This is also shown by a current study of heating types by the AK. Therefore, the AK is now calling for a legal shutdown ban for electricity, gas and heat during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.


The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

23 December 2021

At the end of 2021, when energy prices had increased and amid a further lock-down, the same instrument was resorted to once more, from the beginning of the Christmas holidays (23 December 2021) until 31 March 2022.

Use of measure

When looking at data from previous years, it becomes evident that the numbers in 2020 were very well below the average of other years. Averaged over the years 2017 to 2019, there were 2,757 (April), 2,921 (May) and 2,823 (June) disconnections in electricity, 2,651 in April 2019, 2,684 in May 2019 and 2,006 in June 2019. The number of disconnections in the gas sector has also decreased massively compared to the previous year.

Data provided by E-Control are based on a questionnaire to energy providers, which also asked about disconnections that were not carried out due to the COVID-19-agreement. Compared to the disconnections actually carried out in the previous year, there was a significant increase. Overall, this indicates that there would have been significantly more disconnections than in 2019 (electricity: 10,906 disconnections not carried out from April to June 2020, gas: 3,527 disconnections not carried out from April to June 2020).

According to E-Control's figures for 2020, in total, there have been comparatively few disconnections in Austria despite many reminders and warnings that were sent out: for electricity, there were 15,449 disconnections after 276,877 final reminders, and for gas 2,975 after 76,794 reminders (Kurier, 2021).

Fairly recent data provided by E-Control in mid-February 2022 show that electricity shutdowns due to a breach of contractual obligations still lie significantly below the long-term average. In December 2021, 919 disconnections due to breach of contractual obligations were reported, significantly fewer than in November (1,574 disconnections, minus 42% compared to the previous month). The number of contract terminations carried out by suppliers also fell significantly compared to the previous month to 1,573 contract terminations (November: 2,290, minus 31% month-on-month).

A similar development was evident concerning gas provision. Also here, shutdowns due to a breach of contractual obligations are below the long-term average. In December, with 104 disconnections for breach of contractual obligations due to the agreement (see above), significantly fewer disconnections were observed than in December 2021 (184, minus 43% month-on-month). The number of contract terminations carried out by suppliers fell to 604 (November: 800, minus 24% month-on-month).

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Does not apply to workers Sector specific set of companies
Applies to all citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Employers' organisations
Company / Companies

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted No involvement
Form Unknown Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level


It seems that the Chamber of Labour was somewhat involved, even though the extent is unknown. However, their demand seems to have been taken into the sector agreement (see source).

Views and reactions

Chamber of Labour demanded the measure.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      D - Electricity, Gas, Steam And Air Conditioning Supply D35 Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

This case is not occupation-specific.



Eurofound (2020), No energy shutdown when payment difficulties occur, measure AT-2020-12/580 (measures in Austria), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.