Today, during the 7th Citizens’ Energy Forum , NEON, the National Energy Ombudsmen Network, presented the report on ADR in the Energy Sector in Europe conducted by Dr Naomi Creutzfeldt, ESRC Research Fellow, Fellow of Wolfson College Centre for Socio-Legal Studies – University of Oxford, and commissioned by NEON.
The research reveals that although all Member States (at National or regional level) have a body that is responsible for dealing with energy complaints, there are great variations in the set-up of these bodies. Energy ADR schemes in EU and EFTA Member States: 5 independent energy ADR bodies (just for energy and not part of an NRA or government body); 14 ADR bodies within the NRA; 11 ADR schemes as part of a body with a larger ADR remit (e.g. complaint boards).
The landscape is varied and Member States are at different stages of the implementation of the Third Energy Package and the consumer ADR directive. Poland, Latvia, and Germany serve as case studies to demonstrate that despite implementation of the Third Energy package into national legislation there are differences in performance and functions of energy ADR bodies in the Member States. This will affect the implementation of the consumer ADR directive later this year.
This report concludes with following recommendations:
- Every Member State, at the national or regional level, should establish access to a single Energy Ombudsman, which is seen to have independence from the regulator.
- All EU Member States, or a part of it, or members of the European Free Trade area /energy providers, should avoid fragmentation of Consumer ADR into multiple sectoral schemes. It is suggested they either consolidate sectoral ombudsmen or outsource regulated areas to pan-cross-border expert ombudsmen.
- Ombudsmen inform the regulatory system: so links between Energy Ombudsmen and Energy Regulators will be critical.
- In line with Article 16 of the consumer ADR directive, NEON should grow as the network of energy ADR providers: sharing best practice, feeding back on complaints, encouraging improvements in the sector, providing relevant data in a coherent way and developing a common language.
- NEON has a significant role to play in fostering the relationship between the energy sector and its customers; helping rebalance the relationship between consumers and the market and empowering consumers.
Strong ADR procedures help to reach the goals of the Energy Union. The EC should ensure the full completion of the Third Energy Package, and carefully monitor the implementation of the ADR directive.
As mentioned in its position paper on the European Commission’s Energy Union , NEON believes that stakeholders should share responsibility for consumers’ engagement in the energy market. The Internal Energy Market must be tailored for consumers, especially the most vulnerable ones.
Energy Union’s innovative energy services need specific knowledge of consumer activity, and this analysis should be done through a network like NEON. Ombudsmen and independent ADR providers, with the help of consumer associations and NRAs, are well placed to provide this, based on complaints and disputes, and will establish a strategy to anticipate those challenges. A dedicated working group on the “complaints of the future” will be established so that Ombudsmen will continue to act as whistle-blowers and regulatory supports for policy makers.
Stakeholders should, therefore, work even more closely together to build strategies to empower consumers. CEER-BEUC 2020 Vision should gain even more supporters. This Vision relies on the principles of Reliability, Affordability, Simplicity and Protection and Empowerment; to empower energy consumers throughout Europe. ADR bodies, as established under the Third Energy Package, have a key part to play.