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Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers

Commission Européenne - IP/07/1026   05/07/2007

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IP/07/1026

Brussels, 5 July 2007

Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers

A new initiative to reinforce the rights of energy consumers in the EU was launched today, as the European Commission put forward a proposal for an Energy Consumers’ Charter. The Charter is expected to set out consumers’ rights in the areas of electricity and gas supply, including contracts, information, prices, dispute settlement and protection against unfair commercial practices. It will be the first time that these rights are outlined in a single document. The Charter will help consumers make informed decisions in choosing suppliers when exercising their rights in electricity and gas markets opened up to competition - as will be the case in most EU Member States by 1 July 2007.

“EU consumers expect us to shape a common European response to energy and climate change challenges”, said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. “And as well as providing them with a sustainable, secure and competitive energy supply, they expect the EU to work to protect consumers’ rights as energy markets are opened up to greater consumer choice. This is where the proposed Energy Consumers’ Charter comes in.”

"The opening of these markets represent both a challenge and an opportunity for European consumers", said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. "Only when we have succeeded in creating a transparent and efficient market where consumers' rights are fully safeguarded and informed consumers use their knowledge to take advantage of the offers available, can we conclude that we've reached our goal."

The Commission stated its commitment to protect energy consumers in its Communication on energy policy of 10 January 2007. EU Energy Ministers and Heads of State and Government have also requested better consumer protection in the light of the full opening of EU energy markets in July 2007, which will give consumers the right to choose their energy supplier of preference[1].

The EU Electricity and Gas Directives (2003/54/EC and 2003/55/EC) have already established consumer rights in the energy field along with safeguards for vulnerable citizens, but these rights should be clarified in view of full market opening.

Consumers need clear information to help them choose between suppliers, and they need protection from any unfair selling practices pressuring them to switch or making it difficult to switch. Procedures for switching supplier must be efficient. And the risk of “fuel poverty” must be addressed by protecting citizens who may be particularly vulnerable to increases in energy prices.

Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers

The Commission has identified four key goals on which the future Charter should be based:

  • more efficient protection of vulnerable citizens;
  • more information to consumers;
  • less paper work when changing supplier;
  • protecting consumers from unfair selling practices.

Consumers’ entitlements under the draft Charter are expected to include:

  • Connection: the right to receive against payment regular and predictable levels of safe and secure electricity and gas services
  • Supply: the right to change electricity and gas supplier free of charge
  • Contracts: the Charter lists the minimum elements that every contract with an energy supplier must include
  • Information: on energy supply, contract conditions, prices and tariffs, energy efficiency measures, and the origin and generation method used for electricity
  • Prices: energy must be made available at reasonable, easily and clearly comparable and transparent prices
  • Social measures: to provide vulnerable citizens with minimum levels of energy services (power, warmth and light) in order to avoid energy poverty
  • Dispute settlement: the right to simple and inexpensive complaint procedures in the event of disputes
  • Unfair commercial practices: these are prohibited under the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive[1].

Next steps

Stakeholders (including consumer representatives, energy regulators, EU Member States and the gas and electricity industry) will be consulted on the proposed elements for a Charter. The Commission will then draft the final document based on their input, which interested parties will sign during a formal ceremony.

This should take place in the beginning of December 2007.

The text of the European Commission's Communication "Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers" and the invitation to participate in the public consultation are available from:

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/energy_policy/consumers/index_en.htm

For the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive see:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cons_int/safe_shop/fair_bus_pract/index_en.htm

For more information about EU energy policy, including the text of the Commission’s Communication of 10 January 2007 on “An Energy Policy for Europe”, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/energy_policy/documents_en.htm


[1] Cyprus and Estonia have a derogation to open their electricity markets by 2013. Malta has a derogation for an indefinite period. Latvia and Portugal must open their gas markets by 2010; Finland and Greece as soon as certain conditions are met.

[1] The 2005/29/EC UCP Directive of 11.05.2005 will take effect on 12 December 2007.


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