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European Commission gets in strong push for consumer protection in winter


As winter progresses, an increasing number of people across the EU struggle to pay their energy bills. Further urgent action is needed to support them. With this in mind, and supported by the European Commission, key stakeholders representing consumers, regulators and energy suppliers and distributors – European Consumer Organisation, Council of European Energy Regulators, Eurelectric, Eurogas, European Energy Retailers, European Distribution System Operators associations, European Federation of Local and Regional Energy Companies and GEODE – committed today in a declaration to encourage the implementation by their members of common principles and immediately applicable measures to help consumers during this winter. These are bill payment deferrals, protection from disconnection, discouraging unilateral contract switching over the winter and access to transparent, clear information as regards bill composition and advice on how to optimise energy use.

EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said

“Many Europeans are struggling to pay their energy bills and we need to ensure that no one is left in the cold this winter. This requires more concerted action by energy suppliers, national regulators, system operators and consumer organisations to tackle the impact of the energy crisis created by Russia’s atrocious war against Ukraine.”

EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, added

“In the energy sector a number of unfair practices have been identified, including unjustified price increases, aggressive advertising and undue pressure to switch providers. It is incumbent on us all to address such practices and collaborate on these issues to protect EU consumers. I strongly encourage national members to implement actions discussed today effectively.”

The declaration adds to the ongoing policy effort since the Toolbox for action and support published in October 2021, and implemented at EU, national and regional levels to provide support in the face of high and rising energy prices. Besides the undisputable importance of solidarity, it builds on the recognised need to provide targeted support to reduce energy demand, create stable market conditions for consumers and suppliers, and offer structured help to those in greatest need.

The declaration shows commitment to step consumer protection further this winter building on some of the national practices. It also acknowledges the challenges that suppliers themselves face in the current context, especially the smaller ones.

The measures agreed to are

bill deferrals using payment plans based on clear criteria and condition
commitment not to disconnect the particularly vulnerable
discourage suppliers from unilateral changes of fixed price contracts
clear, transparent information for energy consumers on bill composition, applicable structures, consumer rights and support available in case of payment difficulties
Signatories will take stock of the implemented measures in February 2023 and the end of April 2023.

The Commission coordinates activities with Member States through the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network.

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