On 12 December, 2022 key stakeholders representing consumers, regulators and energy suppliers and distributors including: the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER), Eurelectric, Eurogas, European Energy Retailers (EER), Association for the European Distribution System Operators (EU DSO Entity), European Distribution System Operators (E.DSO), European Federation of Local and Regional Energy Companies (CEDEC) and Local energy distributors across Europe (GEODE) have issued a joint declaration supported by the European Commission, by which they commit themselves to promoting common principles and urgent measures to help consumers this winter.
The following are the 4 additional voluntary consumer protection measures set out in the Declaration:
Putting in place bill deferrals using payment plans based on clear criteria and conditions targeting, in particular, those consumers who have been disproportionately affected by high energy prices and especially those who are for the first time indebted to their supplier.
Preventing disconnection of consumers. Suppliers in close cooperation with Distribution System Operators will provide tailored solutions for customers based on their individual circumstances: they are encouraged to make full use of their possibilities to apply such solutions to the maximum possible extent as well as any possible alternative to disconnections until end March 2023, especially for customers facing for the first time difficulties with energy bills. For energy poor and vulnerable customers, national authorities will work to identify structural and urgent support measures. Support in implementing energy savings measures should also be put in place, as well as technical advice to help consumers improve their energy efficiency.
Minimizing unilateral contract changes: For contracts still in force up to the end of March 2023, suppliers are called upon to avoid unilateral changes of fixed price contracts which are unfavorable to consumers, before their expiration.
Providing clear information to every consumer, to help understand the situation and have a comprehensive overview of solutions at their disposal. Comprehensive and transparent information, including on applicable energy prices as well as how their consumption is billed and advice on how to optimize their energy use, should be provided to consumers through a variety of communication channels, beyond the final bill. It is important that governments, regulators, industry, consumer bodies and authorities, at all levels, step up their efforts to inform consumers on the crisis, their energy consumption and the support mechanisms and solutions available, undertaking massive communication campaigns to this end. When preparing a new contract, the consumer should receive clear information on the terms of the contract as stipulated in Article 10 of the Electricity Directive. Consumers should be informed about their rights and contact details for where they can seek support in case of difficulties with payments.
The joint statement calls on EU governments, regulators and consumer organisations, energy companies, to promote the implementation of the above listed measures through at least the end of March 2023. Signatories will reconvene in late February and April 2023 to review the measures set out in the Declaration, assess their implementation and share best practices.
The full declaration can be found here.