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.
Protection and rights
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 in July 2007.
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
Joint declaration to better protect consumers
The war in Ukraine and the related energy crisis is causing high energy bills for consumers. More and more families are confronted with the dilemma whether to spend their limited resources on food or on heating their homes. Low-income households are hit the hardest by the crisis. However, this is for the first time in recent memory that middle income households might not be able to pay their energy bills.
To make sure nobody is left behind in winter 2022, the European Commission facilitated a declaration in December 2022 among key stakeholders representing consumers, regulators and energy suppliers and distributors who will encourage their members to implement measures – such as bill payment deferrals, protection from disconnection, clear information about energy prices and bills and advise on how to save energy, among others – to help consumers during this winter. The declaration adds to the ongoing Commission’s actions and measures to provide support to consumers in the face of high and rising energy prices, building on the recognised need to provide targeted support to reduce energy demand, and offer structured help to those in greatest need.
The Commission will take stock of the situation and of implementation of this declaration in February and April 2023.
- Declaration for enhanced consumer protection this winter (December 2022)
- Factsheet: Electricity Market Design (January 2019)
- Directive on common rules for the internal market for electricity (EU) 2019/944
- Evaluation of the electricity market design and security of supply (30/11/2016)
- Publication: European energy consumers' rights (26 June 2015)
- Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on “Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers’ (COM(2015) 339 final)
- Communication: A new deal for energy consumers COM(2015)339
- Electricity Directive (2009/72/EC)
- Natural Gas Directive (2009/73/EC)