On 26 January 2022, the District Court of Oost-Brabant rendered judgment in the case between Stichting Stadsverwarming Eindhoven (the Foundation) and Ennatuurlijk B.V.District Court of Oost-Brabant 26 January 2022, ECLI:NL:RBOBR:2022:206 This was one of the two cases pending before the District Court of Oost-Brabant against Ennatuurlijk B.V. The question was whether Ennatuurlijk B.V. had rightly charged connection costs to users of district heating. The Foundation is seeking a declaratory judgment that Ennatuurlijk, without any legal basis, charges or charged an annual connection contribution and charges or charged interest on this without any legal basis. In addition, the Foundation is seeking a declaratory judgment entailing that Ennatuurlijk must bring the pricing in line with legislation and regulations and that Ennatuurlijk has an obligation to refund the amount already (wrongly) paid. Ennatuurlijk B.V. argued against admissibility of the claim, but in vain. According to the District Court, the claims are based on a sufficiently common legal question and the interests of those represented are sufficiently safeguarded.
The District Court then investigates whether there was a contractual legal basis for charging connection costs and whether interest could be charged on these. According to the District Court, in this case particular weight is assigned to what the parties communicated to each other in writing, because the parties did not speak to each other prior to the conclusion of the agreement. The District Court concludes that, based on the written information, the users could not know or need not have known that an indexed connection contribution would be charged periodically, let alone that this would be done in the form of an interest-bearing loan. The declaratory judgment that Ennatuurlijk charged an annual connection contribution without any legal basis and charged interest on that is therefore granted.
However, the declaratory judgment entailing that Ennatuurlijk must adjust its pricing in line with legislation and regulations and that it has an obligation to refund amounts paid wrongly is rejected. The District Court finds that this claim was not formulated specifically enough. The Foundation has not explained sufficiently why the pricing is not in line with legislation and regulations. In addition, the award of an order for restitution requires an individual assessment per resident. This assessment cannot be given in the present proceedings.