International Cooperation and Consumer Protection in Retail Energy Markets
Authors: Cristiano Artizzu
The promotion of consumer protection and competition is essential for the well functioning of the energy sector. Consumers need to make informed choices and a well functioning market should enable them to choose between various energy suppliers and offers. Despite retail competition has been supported by a gradual reform in many countries, most customers are not actively participating in the energy markets. The European Commission and UE National Regulatory Authorities support the development of the energy sector by promoting competition as well as consumer protection. Moreover, the Energy Community and the Association of Mediterranean Regulators for Electricity and Natural Gas operate to establish a common frame and a well functioning energy market.
Thanks to the above mentioned entities, the best regulatory models are shared for the benefit of customers and to deal with numerous areas of concern, such as the lack of incentives for new suppliers to enter the market, the unfair terms and asymmetries affecting consumers in a negative way and the need of measures to ensure the supply to vulnerable customers.
The purpose of the present paper is to provide an overview of international cooperation in the field of consumer protection in the energy sector and of the way private law tools (regulated contract terms or mandatory quality standards, for example) may be used to overcome inequalities in bargaining power and to ban unfair practices which distort competition and harm consumers. The paper will be also focusing on the Italian retail energy market as a case study.
Keywords: Consumer protection - energy law - regulation - national regulatory authority - retail markets - international cooperation - contract terms - quality of service