EEMG 2nd distance seminar - April 29, 2021

On the 29th of April 2021, we organized the 2nd EEMG remote meeting, due to the COVID crisis.

After a brief welcome message of our president, Benedicte GENDRY, we invited members to focus, first, on the case of Italy. Then a member of European Commission DG Energy explained consumers provisions in the Electricity Market Directive.

Speaking about Italy, impact of Covid-19 has changed priorities. In particular, the Digital Transition has been accelerated.

Measures to support families and business have been adopted by the Italian government in order to provide aide to economic activities (such as discounts on electricity bills for SMEs) and to boost health services. In addition, in order to face post-pandemic economic slowdown, many interventions will be financed through the Italian Recovery Plan, especially related to green revolution and ecological transition.

In this context, Edison has also adopted internal policies to reduce the impact of pandemic on its customers, either being consumers or small companies (delay of payments, retail plans.).

Edison presented an update of its activities, particularly on its permanent working groups involving 20 associations. One of those, Ovidio Marzaioli, General Secretary of Movimento Consumatori, has presented the mechanism of joint conciliation which is an original way of settlement of conflicts. We learnt that, for electricity and gas, joint conciliation is compulsory.  In Italy, ADR has become a real legal framework, complementary to litigation. Edison is one of the seven signatories of the ADR protocol. The merits of such a procedure lay down in a high success rate, due partly to a high training level as well as a control of their activities by the regulating bodies.

After the presentation, a debate opened centered on the initial and continuing training of mediators / conciliators. The need for regular and supervised continuing training to ensure the quality of mediations has been recognized and is practiced in all the participating countries. In some countries, lawyers are excluded (like in Italy) when in some others, they can be mediators (France) and in some others, they must be lawyers (Germany). Finally, the representative of DG Energy, Achille Hannoset gave a little reminder on the transposition of the ADR directive, now in place in all European countries. He indicated that ADR provided a regulatory framework for the amicable resolution of disputes, giving better security for consumers, but leaving some flexibility depending on the country. He underlined that the only country which has transposed with the three alternative modes: arbitration, mediation and conciliation is Italy.

He recalled some requirements associated with the amicable settlement of disputes: independence, impartiality, gratuity, no obligation to be assisted by a lawyer. He underlined the interest of the joint conciliations experienced in Italy. Above all, he recognized the effectiveness and complementarity of legal and amicable solutions.

A debate then opened on the practices of joint conciliations, on the obligations prior to attempting a conciliation, on the effectiveness of company mediations and on the importance of the supervisory authorities established in each country.

Achille Hannoset also presented consumers provisions in the Electricity Market Directive, in the framework of the Clean Energy Package. The aim is to have better informed, protected and empowered consumers. He underlined the growing role of energy communities, a solution, according to him, to reduce energy poverty. Particularly, the out-of-court disputes settlement are part of the protection measures.

Consumers are empowered by a wider choice and higher quality services.  

They become more active and will be able to provide flexibility services, through storage assets, for example. Some goals have been defined, as, by 2026, the technical process of switching suppliers must take less than 24 hours. New texts will come in that sense, notably the European Green Deal.

Finally we ended the meeting by stressing on the positive role of company mediators in a transition context of crisis and ecologic challenges. Benedicte first emphasizes the fact that company mediators contribute to a better consumer-driven energy market (thanks to their background they are able to adapt quickly to new topics in relation to energy transition, able to imagine specific solutions addressing disputes). Actually they already handle cases related to new topics such renewable energy self – production/consumption and many other topics. They are also able to advise the energy companies with recommendations of action plan or improvement guidelines in order to reduce or ideally eliminate dispute sources for better consumer’s satisfaction. Finally she offered  the representative of DG Energy to present when possible, with more details the process of mediation in the energy field.  We also agreed to strengthen our collaborative work with DG Energy, in order to benefit from each other’s experience of consumer needs and behaviour. This initiative was apparently appreciated, and we ended the remote conference hoping that the next meeting will take place in Italy. 

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