During the European Consumer Summit held on Monday 17th October in Brussels, Commissioner Věra Jourová announced the European Commission aims to create a “EU consumer rights code” that “ensures that the legal provisions are consistent, modern and also future-proof”.
NEON, the network of energy ADR and ombudsmen bodies, has long been supporting the idea of such a horizontal approach, which would help consumers to navigate in the ever-more complex markets and understand better their rights. At the same time, such a code would create a level-playing field for all stakeholders, allowing all involved parties to enforce correctly consumers’ rights, without, as Commissioner Jourová said, having to “scrap or reduce current consumer rights as an excuse to lessen the administrative burden or lower the costs”.
Furthermore, such a Code would allow authorities in charge of ensuring compliance, including ombudsmen and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) bodies, to enforce the rules better to the benefit of all.
NEON welcomes the large support given to this initiative from the participants of the European Consumer Forum, the high-level panellists and from the European Commission. NEON truly believes that to achieve a strong consumer engagement, and increase trust in the markets the EU consumer rights code will send unambiguous and positive signals for consumers and businesses.
Nevertheless, in order to be truly effective and enforceable, NEON believes the EU consumer rights code should also be adapted to sectoral issues and to the variety of existing markets, especially those having a major impact on public interest, such as energy, telecom, public transport, postal, financial and insurance services.
Hence, in February 2016, NEON presented its vision for an Energy Consumer Code, which aims at defining a set of standards to be guaranteed at EU level, a common framework to protect end consumers with effective standards for the right to access to and use of energy services, the security and quality of supply, access to the grid, data protection, prices and price comparison tools, marketing and sales, switches, moving, contractual terms, unified communications, easily understandable bills, information on real-time consumption with smart meters, and complaint procedures, with the principle of solidarity and responsibility at its core.
In the energy sector, in particular, important challenges will face consumers – households, businesses and industry alike – while electricity and gas markets are changing fast in order to face the internal energy market transitions. Ensuring the right to all to access to and use of energy services, security, flexibility and quality of low carbon energy production and supply, the level of energy prices, demand side management and access to the market and provision of flexible response is the duty of all stakeholders.
NEON is looking forward to new developments on Consumer policy and to engaging in the discussions with all the stakeholders.