Consumers are at the centre of the EU’s energy policy, and a wide range of initiatives has been taken to make consumers an active part of the clean energy transition and help them save more money and energy. By providing consumers with information and offering them options on how they can participate in the energy market, they will be better protected and in a stronger position in the energy supply chain.
All EU citizens enjoy general consumer rights guaranteed in EU legislation, as well as a set of defined energy related rights that have been in force since the opening up of the energy supply market. Energy consumer rights have to be clearly set out in the national laws of EU countries and must reflect provisions in EU legislation. On that basis, the national legislation must for example guarantee consumers the right to:
- an electricity connection so that households are connected to the local electricity
- network and supplied with electricity
- a choice of electricity and gas suppliers as well as an easy and fast switch of suppliers, without extra charges
- clear contract information and the right of withdrawal
- accurate information on the consumption and billing based on it.
The Clean energy for all Europeans package, adopted in May 2019, is a legislative framework that will help accelerate the clean energy transition. The package includes eight legislative files of which four are collectively known as the electricity market design.
The new rules outlines a comprehensive framework for consumer protection, information and empowerment in the EU electricity sector, for example:
- energy bills will be made clearer and customers will get a summary of key contractual conditions to help them better understand sometimes complex terms and conditions
- providers should give free-of-charge access to at least one energy comparison tool allowing consumers to find the best deal in the market
- to help consumers better control their costs, information in electricity bills will be improved.
Energy poor households often lack access to modern energy services, which has an adverse effect on health and well-being for the residents. The EU aims to combat energy poverty and has made it a political priority under the Clean energy for all Europeans package. New obligations will help better identify vulnerable and energy poor costumers, require EU countries to measure the numbers of people at risk, and monitor progress in tackling the issue. Thus making it easier to target assistance to those who need it and quantify the extent to which governments handle the growing issue of energy poverty.
Citizens' Energy Forums
The European Commission established the Citizens' Energy Forum in 2008. It covers topics such as vulnerable consumers, price transparency, and consumers as energy market agents and is organised annually.