Alternative dispute resolution in the field of consumer energy services in the EU
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Energy services have a particularly significant impact on the daily life and welfare of consumers. The importance of such services is high, and their regulation is also changing both at the EU and Member States level, especially after the adoption of the Third Energy Package1, which is focused on improving the operation of retail markets to yield real benefits for both electricity and gas consumers. In order to implement the main or the most relevant goal of the EU, such as high level of consumer rights protection, resulting in consumer trust in business sector, proper and effective functioning of the EU internal market etc., it is essential to ensure clear and sufficient legal regulation, establish responsibility of the services providers, consumer rights and duties as well as promote more effective, faster and cheaper ways of solving consumer and business disputes. The authors of this article feel the lack of scientific analysis on this issue. Despite its importance, discussions take place at political or practical level, but no recent analyses exist as to why energy services sector is so fragmented and how it affects different conditions or rights of consumers in various Member States. This article also clearly supports the idea that the above-mentioned goals can be achieved by close and more fruitful cooperation between the EU and national competent authorities, participation in various ad hoc expert working groups and committees, such as the Vulnerable Consumers Working Group. This article reflects general ideas about the problems arising in the energy consumer services sector, the activity of the EU and national institutions, seeking to ensure fair and transparent provision of such services to consumers, it also contains an analysis of alternative dispute resolution (hereinafter – the ADR) methods and good practice of their application in the EU Member States. This article highly supports the application of alternative procedures in the field of energy services and sees them as a possibility to minimise increasing consumer problems, e.g. a new phenomenon – consumer energy poverty in the EU, which is defined as the situation where a household is unable to access a socially and materially necessitated level of energy services at home and pay for the provided services.
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