Citizens’ Energy Forum in London
Implementation of the 3rd package will strengthen the position of consumers
The Citizens’ Energy Forum was opened by Lord Mogg - the Chairman of CEER and the ACER Board of Regulators - who was also speaking on behalf of Ofgem - the host of the forum. Guenter Oettinger - the EU Commissioner for Energy and John Dalli - the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy also welcomed guests through the video message. The inaugural speeches put the emphasis on the central role that a consumer should play in the EU energy policy and the key role of the London Forum in this respect. The appeal was made to improve the cooperation between the regulators and the consumer organizations in Europe.
Among the attendees of the European Commission chaired Forum were representatives of the European and local consumer associations, the EU Member States, energy regulators, Energy Community and Norway as well as the representatives of electricity and gas sectors and end users’ spokesmen. The Energy Regulatory Office was represented by Zofia Janiszewska, Deputy Director at the Department for Promotion of Competition.
The Forum was divided into four sessions: procedures for consumer complaints with the emphasis on the alternative (outside of court) mechanisms of handling the disputes; competitive retail energy market that benefit consumers, e.g.: switching of the energy supplier, billing, price information and customer empowerment; smart metering and demand response scheme.
At the meeting it was emphasized that because of the lack of full implementation of the EU directives comprising the 3rd energy package, the energy regulators do not possess the necessary authority to monitor and properly handle the consumer complaints. The EU Member States were urged to grant the regulators with means to protect the consumers. The lack of implementation of the EU regulations into national law results in some of the countries in weakening the end users’ position. One of the most important issues is introducing the definition of the vulnerable customer into the national law. The European Commission announced that during the next months the initiative concerning the Alternative Dispute Resolution will be adopted, it will draw on the best practice and procedures of the Member States, and creating the working group within DG SANCO (Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection) in charge of defining criteria to increase the transparency for presenting price offer and characteristics.
According to the participants of the Forum the proper implementation of the 3rd energy package will significantly strengthen the position of the energy end users in the EU. The important initiatives of the European Commission and CEER are aimed at working out the common solutions for the whole EU. During the meeting the consumer organizations were asked to become more involved in the regulators’ works towards strengthening the position of the end user on the energy market. A similar request was made by the consumer organizations. The quality of the cooperation depends on the involvement of the consumer representatives from the earliest possible stage of the works.
The participants stressed that the fourth edition of the Annual meeting indicates how advantageous the creation of the Forum was. The common definition of the problems, the mutual understanding and agreeing on most of the priorities and action directions foster the works on behalf of the consumers. The discussion on the implementation of smart metering still remains the exception that shows the difference of opinions. During the discussion the consumer representatives indicated the need for reliable information and thorough analysis of benefits and costs.
Fourth Annual Meeting of the Citizens’ Energy Forum took place on 26-27 October 2011 in London. The London Forum came into existence in October 2008 from the European Commission’s initiative.