NEON, the network of independent energy ombudsmen and alternative resolution bodies, welcomes the conclusions of the 9th Citizens’ Energy Forum which fosters the empowerment of out-of-court dispute resolution mechanisms to address consumer complaints in the energy markets, including on bundled offers and new product and service providers such as aggregators.
Furthermore, the Forum expresses its opinion that the mandatory dispute resolution as established under the Third Energy package is maintained, meaning that the current reference to the need for Member States to ensure the existence of “an energy ombudsman” and an obligation on companies to participate in out-of-court dispute settlements should be reinstated.
NEON and its members have been raising awareness in the past years of the problems that new entrants, bundled offers and third-party product and service providers are likely to create, what we call “the problems of the future”. NEON members witness many complex situations where loopholes prevent them from being able to handle certain kind of cross-sectoral complaints linked to new products and services. Consumer organisations, regulators, policy-makers along with the industry, suppliers and DSOs have been involved in discussions to take appropriate measures to tackle those issues, and promote shared values and best practice and build a common framework to protect end consumers via a European Consumer Code for Energy Consumers.
NEON believes that the change provided in the current proposal of the European Commission would limit the role of our members to simply dispute resolution as opposed to being able to provide advice to stakeholders in the marketplace which would restore the balance between individual (vulnerable) consumers and the energy companies. Since the proposed Clean Energy for all package paves the way for energy customers to engage in market relationships where they are not “consumers” in the sense of the 2013 ADR Directive, that is, in a contractual relationship with a trader, meaning that the scope of the above-mentioned directive is too narrow, the Electricity Directive to be adopted should go further and provide sector-specific provisions.
Hence, it is essential that independent energy-specific dispute resolution schemes, such as energy ombudsmen, are empowered by policy makers and regulators to address consumer complaints in the energy markets, including on bundled offers and new product and service providers such as aggregators. In order to make the use of those mechanisms more widespread, suppliers should provide information on alternative dispute resolution and the ways to reach the energy ombudsman on their website and in all relevant communications with their customers as well, including the professional end-users such as SMEs and micro businesses.
Therefore, NEON calls the European Parliament and the Council to follow the conclusions of the 9th Citizens’ Energy Forum and ask Member States to empower energy dispute resolution schemes such as energy ombudsmen to address consumer complaints in the energy markets, including on cross-sectoral new products and services.