With the support of Dr Naomi Creutzfeldt, ESRC Research FellowFellow of Wolfson College Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford
NEON finds policy-makers, companies, regulators, ombudsmen and ADR entities all have their role to play in managing consumer expectations and protecting them. All consumers are different and cannot be treated the same, and to be able to meet consumer needs, stakeholders need to adopt a flexible, consumer-centred approach.
NEON believes it would be necessary:
- To create a network that promotes shared values and best practice to help consumers to navigate the complex market, involving policy-makers, companies, regulators, consumer organisations, and ombudsmen and ADR entities; and
- For ombudsmen and ADR bodies to be empowered to address cross-sectoral challenges and enable stakeholders to get a clear understanding of the market and to take necessary measures to solve systemic problems.
In July 2015, the European Commission’s Communication on ‘Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers’ concluded that all consumers should be able to fully participate in the energy transition while maintaining full protection for consumers, with a special attention to data management and protection.
In accordance with its 2015 work programme, NEON set up a working group to share experiences on current complaints faced by energy consumers and trends towards new technologies and their challenges for consumers. The working group concluded technological advances will empower individuals and communities and transform the relationships between consumer and provider. It will become more and more difficult to meet consumer expectations in the open and competitive energy market. To be able to meet consumer needs, all stakeholders need to adopt a flexible, consumer centred approach.
The working group acknowledges this is a real challenge to fulfil consumer expectations in an open energy market with low consumer confidence. Energy consumers demand transparency; they want their rights and choices respected as citizens and not only as clients of energy companies.
Business processes need to be rethought and the consumer put at the centre. The consumer has to be educated to strive towards the long-term benefits of efficient energy use and tools to monitor their energy consumption. Consumers cannot be treated the same, they are all individuals will different needs. However, they all are actors in the same market and within this face challenges. Consumers in the market need to be engaged, responsive, protected, and informed. The energy companies, energy regulators, consumer organisations and ombudsmen and ADR entities all have their role to play in managing consumer expectations and protecting them. Alongside consumers growing education and expectations, companies have to adapt their culture to growing demands.
Stakeholders need to create a network that promotes shared values and best practice to help consumers to navigate the complex market, involving policy-makers, companies, regulators, consumer organisations, and ombudsmen and ADR entities. To empower end-users, an ambitious Consumer Code, a common framework to protect end consumers with effective standards for prices and price comparison tools, sales, switches, moving, contractual terms, unified communications, information on real-time consumption with smart meters, easily understandable bills, and complaint procedures should be fostered. Independent ombudsmen and ADR bodies with their key understanding of the market are best placed to engage policy-makers regulators, energy providers, and consumers in such a constructive dialogue.