Croatian state-owned power provider HEP on Tuesday rejected accusations by its rival RWE Energija that it was obstructing the liberalisation of the Croatian electricity market with the aim of restoring its monopoly.

"HEP strongly rejects the accusations made today by RWE that it is obstructing the process of liberalisation of the Croatian electricity market and the claim that 50 per cent of the clients wishing to switch to RWE cannot do so because of various obstacles by HEP," the company said in a statement.

RWE Energija executives said at a press conference on Tuesday that HEP was trying to destroy free trading in electricity by denying consumers a free choice of suppliers, adding that direct sales were a legitimate and usual way of selling electricity.

HEP said it welcomed the process of liberalisation, but condemned "unfair, immoral and deceptive methods of sale used by several suppliers, such as false identification, signature forgery, unauthorised entry into people's homes, untruthful statements of discount, and signing an agreement with insufficiently informed elderly citizens."

HEP's awareness-raising campaign to protect consumer rights is helping create "a mature and responsible market", the company said.

HEP said that in their contacts with citizens sales agents from rival suppliers often identify themselves as HEP employees, seek access to electricity bills and the electricity meter, or claim that their company is in partnership with HEP.  It cited cases of customers' signatures being forged or customers being subjected to verbal violence and threats after refusing to sign an agreement.

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