Note: We have compiled the contents in this FAQ to the best of our knowledge and in good faith. It is regularly updated and checked for correctness. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee the unrestricted actuality, correctness and completeness of the information provided.

All about the strike initiative Wir Zahlen Nicht

What is Wir Zahlen Nicht?

Wir Zahlen Nicht is a strike initiative fighting against the massive increase in energy costs. Our means: A payment strike against the electricity companies, i.e., the profiteers of these price increases.
We will go on a payment strike – together with one million people. Wir Zahlen Nicht develops the campaign, helps to build activists´ networks, and supports the formation of local `Don´t Pay` groups.

The campaign has its roots in Great Britain, where activists are organizing a payment strike against the skyrocketing gas and electricity prices.

Who organises Wir Zahlen Nicht?

Wir Zahlen Nicht is a self-organized strike initiative. The campaign has been started by a network of social movements, leftist groups and activists from several German cities. Everyone volunteers their time and skills however they can. No one is paid to work for the Don’t Pay campaign.

How is Wir Zahlen Nicht funded?

No one is paid – we all are volunteering our time and skills while we are keeping our jobs, pursuing an education, or are taking care for the household, friends and family. The strike initiative thrives on the fact that many people contribute their time and abilities.

So far, the costs for realizing the campaign have been paid out of our own pockets and by donations from our social environment.

To be able to cover the expenses in the long term, we need to spread the financing over more shoulders. To do so, you can order the campaign materials, such as flyers, posters, and stickers, by donating via our web page. In this way, we want to ensure that everyone who wants to receive materials can do so, regardless of their financial means. For this and for the financing of other costs, such as for our IT infrastructure, public events and campaigns, we rely on donations.

I want to participate to Wir Zahlen Nicht! What can i do?

Take a look around. Maybe there’s already a local group in your town you can join? There is a lot to do: Talk to neighbors about the payment strike, distribute flyers, and plan actions together.

You are not member of a group yet? We can put you in contact with other interested people in your area via our join-in tool. All you have to do is enter your zip code and you will be assigned to a Telegram chat with other people from your area. Together, you can then use our guide to start a local group and use our materials to recruit fellow strikers right away.

Here you can also find lots of material to print out your own flyers or posters.

All about our demands

What do you want to achieve with the payment strike?

We are pursuing four goals with the payment strike.

In the short term we demand

1) A ban on electricity disconnections.

2) an affordable electricity price of 15 ct/kWh.

In the medium and long term we demand

3) the socialization of energy supply.
The price increases and excess profits of the current crisis are only the tip of the iceberg. Since the privatization of the power supply in the 1990s, the profits of the energy companies have become more and more expensive. The link between the price of electricity and the price of gas is fueling prices even further. The electricity price brake of 40 ct/kWh continues to mean expensive electricity for us and billions in profits for the corporations – not least because the state subsidizes all prices above 40 ct/KWh. Energy is a basic right and must be affordable for all. We want to decide ourselves on the production and price of energy. We want to socialize the energy supply.

4) 100% renewable and decentralized energy.
Electricity is no longer affordable for many of us. Its production from coal and gas has always been at the expense of the climate. Renewable electricity from modern plants is not only cheaper in the long run, but also the only option to protect the climate and our future. But the expansion of renewable energy has been too slow so far, while fossil fuels continue to be subsidized. We want the rapid and decentralized expansion of renewable energy for a sustainable energy supply at an affordable price of 15 ct/kWh.

How do you figure an electricity price of 15 ct/kWh?

The average electricity price is currently (as of 2022) made up of three components. These are the price for electricity generation (44.2%), the price for grid charges (24.7%) and other taxes (including 16% VAT, 6.3% electricity tax and 8.9% other taxes).

On the electricity stock exchange, the producer price for the most expensive energy source determines the overall price for electricity production. Currently, electricity from gas is the most expensive. Producers who produce electricity from comparatively cheap production sources, i.e. from renewable energies, coal or nuclear, thus also receive the gas price for their electricity, although they themselves had lower production costs. This results in large profits or excess profits for these producers.

Already, the largest share of electricity is generated from renewable sources (45% of the electricity mix). The production price for renewable energy is the cheapest and is currently around 15 ct/kWh. However, this is only the average price. If you only look at the production costs from new plants, it is around 7.5 ct/kWh. With the continued expansion of new plants and technical improvements, the average price of renewable energy is expected to drop even further and become the cheapest energy source in the long term. And it is important to remember: The production price for fossil and nuclear energies does not include the enormous follow-up costs.

We arrive at the electricity price of 15 ct/kWh for three reasons:

1) We demand 100% renewable and decentralized energy. So far, the changeover is taking place too slowly. This is why we take the price for the generation of renewable electricity from modern plants as a basis, i.e. 7.5 ct/kWh. We no longer pay for climate-damaging electricity from fossil and nuclear energy.

2) We demand the socialization of the energy supply, because we do not want to pay any longer for the profits of the power companies. Currently, the majority of the energy supply is privatized, from the production plants to the supply networks. Even where the power supply is in municipal hands, it continues to compete with private suppliers. We calculate 7.5 ct/kWh as an additional grid fee. This is to finance the maintenance, expansion and conversion of the power grid as well as necessary storage systems for an operation purely from renewable energy. This is only slightly less than the current grid fees, but in this case all the money goes into the infrastructure and not, needlessly, into the profits of corporations.

3) We pay no other taxes for our electricity. Instead of uniform tax duties for all, which are socially unjust and place the greatest burden on those who have the least, we want to compensate for the loss of revenue through other taxes, such as wealth and inheritance taxes.

We demand an electricity price of 15 ct/kWh. This is a guideline value. In practical implementation, this would have to be further refined to be socially and climate compatible as well as cost-covering. To this end, the electricity price of 15 ct/kWh could, for example, apply to a basic electricity requirement and then increase progressively. Those who consume a lot of electricity would then have to pay more. Those who heat the pool and sauna will have to dig deeper into their pockets. This is because energy consumption is also very unequal in Germany. The richest ten percent of households consume about as much energy as the poorest 40 percent. Ideas on how a progressive electricity price could be structured can be found here.

How should energy companies be socialized?

For the socialization of energy supply, legal measures under Article 15 of the Basic Law are conceivable at both federal and state level. The article states that “land, natural resources and means of production may, for the purpose of socialization, be transferred into common ownership or into other forms of common economy by a law regulating the nature and extent of compensation.”

(Re-)communalization of infrastructure is also possible at the communal level. This has already been attempted several times via direct-democratic votes, such as in 2013 via the successful referendum of the “Our Hamburg – Our Grid” campaign and simultaneously in Berlin via the Berlin Energy Table. Both feature comprehensive ideas for social measures and an accelerated energy turnaround.

We want to go one step further – similar to the campaign to expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co: Instead of nationalizing the power supply, we want to transfer it to social ownership and organize it democratically.

All about the payment strike

Why should we take action together?

While energy companies are making billions, millions of households can no longer afford the rising cost of energy.

However, this is not a sudden problem, but a permanent crisis. The privatization of the German electricity market has led to ever higher prices for private end consumers since the 1990s. Today, Germany is one of the countries with the highest electricity prices in the world: end consumers in this country have to pay almost three times more than the international average. At the same time, the extremely high profits of the energy companies are increasing. These problems are not natural, but the result of political decisions.

A joint payment strike opens up the scope to organize ourselves collectively and in solidarity and to find a way out of the permanent crisis together. In this way, those of us who cannot pay are no longer alone with our problem. In this way, we can also resist the crisis profiteers and the course of the federal government, which is neither socially just nor ecologically sensible in dealing with the extremely increased energy costs since last year (see: Why are the government’s measures not enough?).

What actually is a payment strike?

In a payment strike, a large number of people collectively refuse to pay bills or fees. The payment strike can affect either the entire amount or only a partial amount and can be scheduled for a specific period of time or indefinitely.

In principle, a payment strike works in a similar way to strikes in workplaces. They are a key means of exerting pressure to enforce claims. In the case of strikes in companies, the issue is usually higher wages or shorter working hours.
But also in other areas of our lives we need means of pressure to demand our right to basic needs, like housing, food or health! Payment strikes are a suitable means for this, with which struggles have already been won in the past. They can be about prices as well as about qualitative aspects of basic needs.

As with strikes in factories, the key to a payment strike is: come together, act together! Only by becoming many strikers can we exert influence.

Have there been payment strikes before?

Payment strikes have happened many times in the past. Especially in the fight against electricity price increases and against fossil and nuclear energies, they are a familiar tool.

Some historical examples:
In the 1970s, hundreds of Dutch households refused to finance new nuclear power plants by paying a special fee. After this successful payment strike, the fee was abolished.
At the same time, under the slogan "No nuclear power plant for our money," hundreds of people in West Germany also withheld ten percent of their electricity costs: the amount represented the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix (p. 74 of PDF).
In 1974, after the announcement of a 70 percent increase in electricity prices, 18,000 workers in Lombardy (Italy) decided to stop paying half of their electricity bills. The government did not dare to cut off the electricity to tens of thousands of people and entered into negotiations. The increase was thus greatly reduced (p. 54 of PDF).

People outside Europe have also taken a stand against electricity companies on several occasions:
In Morocco in 2016, widespread protests with electricity strikes led to the remunicipalization of the city of Tangier's water and electricity supply, which had been privatized by a French company in 2002.
In the 1980s, resistance movements in South Africa organized numerous protests against the apartheid regime, including widespread electricity bill payment strikes.
In the 1950s, the Lebanese population refused to make payments to the French energy company "Société Electricité de Beyrouth." As a result of the payment strike, the company finally had to give up its economic monopoly and agree to nationalize the electricity company.

Why are the government’s measures not enough?

The government’s so-called “electricity price brake” comes too late and helps those who need it most too little! Overall, the “electricity price brake” still means an average price increase of over 30 percent compared to the previous year.

Independently of it how much river a household uses the German current price brake plans 80 per cent of the private current consumption (measured at the previous year consumption) on 40 cent per kWh to cap. For the time being, total electricity consumption is irrelevant. A multimillionaire with a villa and pool lighting therefore ends up saving more money overall than a single mother in a two-room apartment. In addition, end consumers will still have to pay the regular crisis price for 20 percent of electricity consumption.

Instead of capping average basic consumption at an affordable level, the government wants to “create incentives to save”. But more and more people in Germany are scraping by on the poverty line and are already freezing in their dark apartments. Where exactly are we expected to save?

Why are we striking over electricity prices and not gas prices?

For a successful strike, it is extremely important to stand together as a collective. Such unity is easier to achieve when striking over electricity prices than over gas bills.

Gas is often purchased through the service charges, which are set by landlords and billed through the rent. Consequently, in the event of a strike, the entire tenancy may be jeopardized. Electricity, on the other hand, is purchased separately from the tenancy and paid for directly by the residents. Possible consequences of an electricity strike are therefore more manageable and similar for all tenants, so that a common and solidary approach can be found in local groups.

Aren’t we also causing damage to the green energy providers with the payment strike?

On the stock exchange, the price per kilowatt hour of the most expensive supplier to the electricity market must always be paid to all suppliers, regardless of their actual production costs. The most expensive way to produce energy is currently from gas, so all electricity is paid at the price of gas producers. As a result, green electricity suppliers have also made massive profits in recent months. We are no longer prepared to pay these profits.

All about striking with us

I want to join the strike! How do I do that?

It’s great that you want to join the payment strike! First of all, you should register in our participation form, so that we know that you want to strike.

Since your energy provider collects your fees by direct debit, as a first step, you should cancel your direct debit mandate. You can do this immediately without exposing yourself to any risk. Your provider will now send you bills that you should pay by standing order.

With this, you get ready for the payment strike: If we call it, you can change the standing order. Different banks have different deadlines for changing a standing order. Find out in time how it works at your bank!

Can I stop paying now?

Going it alone is risky, because the electricity providers can then quickly cut off your power. We won’t call a strike until we have a million pledges. If we strike together, the impact, from political clout to bureaucratic red tape at the power companies, will be enormous, and we’ll be able to protect each other and achieve our demands. No one will be left alone.

Will my strike pledge remain anonymous?

It is important to us that your data is protected! As soon as you sign up for the strike or as an organizer with your email address, your data will be sent to our server via a secure connection. The assignment to local groups or the sending of our newsletter is done via automated distribution lists. Your strike pledges and your data including your email address are not visible to external persons at any time.

Therefore, your participation in the strike can only become known in two ways: First, if you take a publicly visible position on the strike, e.g. by hanging banners out of the window or posting videos on social media. Secondly, your electricity provider can indirectly suspect your participation from the moment of the collective refusal to pay, since you no longer pay your budget billing. Of course, they do not know whether you have previously supported the strike call.

All about potential consequences of striking

Won’t my electricity provider cut off my electricity if I don’t pay?

If the electricity bill is not paid over a longer period of time, this can be the eventual consequence.

However, by the time the strike kicks off, 1 million people will have announced their intention to take part. The time and effort required to cut off the electricity to all of them would be gigantic. A shut-off cannot be started with a mouse click, but must be carried out by a technician on site. The companies cannot prepare for so many simultaneous disconnections. This means that the more people participate in the strike, the higher the individual protection.

In addition, some individual requirements must also be met before a disconnection can be mandated.

  • The disconnection must be threatened at least 4 weeks before implementation.
  • The outstanding payment at the time of the disconnection must be at least 2 monthly instalments and at least 100€.
  • 8 days prior to the execution of the disconnection, the customer must be informed again and offered an avoidance agreement with interest-free payment in installments. If this is accepted, the continued supply of electricity is usually only after advance payment (prepaid).
  • The electricity cut-off must not be disproportionate. This means that if there are children, sick or pregnant persons living in the household or if the livelihood would be endangered by a disconnection, the disconnection could be inadmissible because it is disproportionate. However, the energy supplier must be informed of these reasons in advance.

For the duration of the electricity price cap (i.e. at least until April 2024), the aforementioned conditions for a cap apply regardless of whether you are a customer of the basic supply or another electricity tariff.

Of course, the disconnection can also be prevented by paying the outstanding amount. Likewise, a disconnection that has already been implemented must be lifted again immediately as soon as the missing amount has been paid. However, in this case the energy supplier can still demand an additional lump sum for the implementation of the disconnection.

But this only describes the legal conditions that we are aware of. Wir Zahlen Nicht also wants to achieve a fundamental ban on power cuts. The implementation of electricity disconnections can – similar to evictions – also be prevented by protests on site. The more people participate in the campaign, the more possibilities we have here as well.

More informations at the Verbraucherzentrale and the Bundesnetzagentur.

Could my electricity contract be terminated if I do not pay my electricity bills?

First of all, it depends on what your electricity tariff is: the basic supply or another contract selected by you. If you are in the local basic supply (“Grundversorgung”), you cannot actually be terminated (but can be affected by an electricity cut-off (see right above).

If you get electricity from an alternative supplier or from another tariff of the basic supplier, a cancellation is possible if it is regulated in your contract or its terms and conditions – so it is best to read both thoroughly before the strike, to be informed.

We don’t strike until there are enough people, so the individual risk of cancellation is also reduced. After all, the electricity suppliers don’t want to lose their clientele en masse either. However, it cannot be ruled out that your electricity contract could be terminated outside the basic supply if you do not pay despite a reminder – especially if your electricity price is still particularly low. Many general terms and conditions stipulate that termination is first threatened in the event of non-payment.

If you are actually terminated and do not have a direct follow-up contract, you automatically switch to the so-called replacement supply (“Ersatzversorgung”) for a maximum of 3 months – which is often particularly expensive, but for which the electricity price brake also applies. If you have not signed a new contract with a supplier within the 3 months, you will automatically be contractually included in the local basic supply. You can find further information and advice here.

Can my landlord terminate my lease if I do not pay my electricity bills?

If the electricity bill is not part of your rent, i.e. you pay it directly to the electricity company, your tenancy will not be affected by the non-payment. Your electricity contract is an agreement between you and the energy company. Your landlord has nothing to do with it and cannot terminate your lease if you strike the electricity bill.

Does a strike affect my credit rating (Schufa)?

Most energy companies report missed payments to credit agencies, especially the Schufa, so that there may be entries in their records.

However, this can only happen after you have received two reminders and have been threatened with a negative Schufa entry. At least 28 days must have passed between the two reminders. Only after the expiration of the payment deadline specified in the second reminder can there actually be an impact on your creditworthiness (or your Schufa credit score) if you have not paid the bill by then. You can find more informations here.

Keep in mind that the company’s cash flow is already disrupted if masses of temporary direct debits are cancelled and bills are not paid until weeks later. In order to strike the electricity companies, you do not necessarily have to let it come to a Schufa entry, if you do not want that.

This said, the way prices are currently rising, millions of us won’t be able to afford our energy payments anyway, regardless of whether or not it affects our credit score. We think it’s important that we take action together to prevent that from happening in the first place.

When is the earliest I can get a negative Schufa entry?

To get a negative Schufa entry, the energy company must have sent you at least two reminders, with an interval of at least 28 days. The first reminder usually requires that the bill be paid within 10-14 days of late payment, the second usually has a somewhat shorter payment span. This means that you will not be able to pay your electricity bill for at least 4 weeks, in reality probably at least 6 weeks, without negative effects on your Schufa, if you pay the second reminder in time. You can find more informations here.

What are the possible consequences if I receive a negative Schufa entry due to the payment strike?

Generally speaking, Schufa records affect your ability to take out credit (e.g. loans, mortgages and credit cards), and they can also be used by private landlords to determine whether they want to rent to you. They can also be used to determine if providers want to offer a cell phone contract, for example. Generally, potential lenders have to check your credit file before granting you a loan, while landlords can opt not to run a credit check. In the case of settled payment defaults of less than 1,000 euros, the entries are deleted again after 3 years. [Source]

It is not possible to say how badly a particular negative entry will affect a person’s Schufa credit score. This depends, among other things, on the amount of debt and on the person’s financial and living situation. For some people, their credit score is already very low due to previous or existing unpaid debts or insolvency. Other people may have no intention of taking out any more significant loans in the next 3 years. If you live in a household with multiple people and have a choice, you could discuss together who is not as much of a risk to their credit score due to various factors and could take over the account.

Not all credit providers, e.g. banks, will refuse to give you credit if you have a late or defaulted payment on your credit file, but as a general rule, the worse your credit score, the fewer lenders (e.g. banks) will give you credit.

Nevertheless, it is often possible to obtain a loan through other means if needed. One option, for example, would be credit unions, which can often offer low-interest loans to help people out of debt.