Friday, 17 January 2014

To the lighthouse

Would you know exactly how much you spend on energy (gas and electricity) and if there are any more convenient offers available? European consumer organisation BEUC observes that the energy market is still very intransparent to a large group of consumers in Europe. In a position paper that was published this week, BEUC highlights the following action points for legislators and enforcement authorities:

'- Access to energy is not guaranteed to all EU consumers. As for electricity, gas should also be part of the universal service concept and Member States should ensure that there are effective procedures in place to minimise the risks of disconnection. 
- Consumers should receive objective and reliable information on the offers available in the market and have the possibility to compare such offers through independent comparison tools
- The terms and conditions governing the contractual relationship between consumers and providers should be transparent and fair. This includes adopting specific measures to help consumers understand complex contracts, for example via a standardised summary of the contract.
- Consumers should also be protected against misleading and aggressive marketing practices, in particular in off-premises contracts. Effective enforcement of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive is urgently needed. 
- The single point of contact and consumer checklist established by the Third Energy Package should help consumers to access information about their rights in the energy market. However, effective scrutiny is necessary to assess how consumer can best use them. 
- Consumers should be able to assess and, where appropriate, change their consumption patterns. To do so, access to understandable consumption information and clear information on bills is essential. Additionally, the effective implementation of the Energy Efficiency Directive will also help consumers to manage their consumption while reducing costs.

Switching should be easier and faster for consumers. Specific measures at national and EU level need to be implemented in order to help consumers change suppliers if they wish to do so (e.g. on switching period and renewal or termination of contracts).
- Finally, better enforcement by national authorities and consumers’ access to effective means of redress in case of disputes between consumers and service providers is essential to build trust in the energy sector.'

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