The Russian invasion of Ukraine dramatically changed the economic and social situation in Europe, with costs-of-living rising sharply in the Union also due to increasing energy prices. Unprecedented measures have been taken at EU and at national level to support consumers, with energy-specific measures and measures based on the existing consumer protection and social policy framework at Union and national levels.
There is a risk that more consumers, including those who have not been identified as vulnerable persons yet, are not able to pay their energy bills this winter. While vulnerable customers and those in energy poverty are hit the hardest by the crisis, an increasing number of low- and middle- income households are also concerned. This could eventually lead to more households finding themselves unable to pay their energy bills for the first time.
The extraordinary situation of today requires joint efforts based on joint principles to enhance the protection of all consumers during this winter. Some suppliers have supported customers in need by implementing complementary measures to the existing legal provisions. At the same time, especially untargeted support measures are very costly for the public budgets and for retailers.
The European Commission organised an “Emergency Roundtable” on 7 November 2022 to discuss with key stakeholders the existing consumer protection policies and the need for further measures. Following this Roundtable, on 21 November and on 5 December 2022, the Commission together with high level representatives of European consumer organizations, regulators, distributors and energy suppliers (BEUC, CEER, Eurelectric, Eurogas, EER, EU DSO Entity and E. DSO) identified a common ground for additional voluntary consumer protection measures which go beyond the existing regulatory framework throughout this winter.
In a common effort, and supported by the European Commission, we, BEUC, CEER, Eurelectric, Eurogas, EER, EU DSO Entity and E.DSO therefore encourage the implementation of some specific measures to support consumers in the energy crisis within the European Union until at least end of March 2023. Therefore, we call on our members to be take into account the following: