Survey sparks EU probe into power market

2 February 2009 – Europe’s retail electricity market is to be examined by the European Commission after a consumer survey ranked it as the worst sector for complaints and dissatifaction.

The FT reported that the concerns stem partly from pricing, but also lack of transparency about the way charges are levied and “unfair” small print in service contracts.

In these areas, only two out of every three consumers were satisfied with their service, according to latest survey results, released on Monday.

Meglena Kuneva, EU consumer affairs commissioner, is expected to announce a more detailed probe into the electricity sector. This has been selected on the grounds that, of the three problem sectors, energy – and electricity in particular – is the one where consumers generally spend most.

Ms Kuneva is expected to say that consumer conditions in the retail electricity market will be the target of an in-depth market analysis by the Commission in 2009, with the first results published this autumn.

The report reaches its conclusions by looking at key main indicators, including pricing, satisfaction, complaints, safety and the ability of consumers to switch suppliers, across more than 20 markets.

The energy sector scores badly in terms of reported price increases – with about 60 per cent of consumers seeing bills go up and only 3-4 per cent enjoying decreases – poor comparability and difficulties in switching.