A new set of EU rules is set to be released on Tuesday, which will require European Union countries to protect vulnerable consumers who are unable to pay their electricity bills from being disconnected by electricity suppliers, as reported by Reuters on March 13. This is part of a wider effort to update Europe’s electricity market regulations. The proposed lawoutlines that “Member States shall ensure that vulnerable customers are protected from electricity disconnections.” The law also stipulates that suppliers and national authorities must provide measures to assist vulnerable customers in managing their energy use and costs. The definition of “vulnerable” customers will vary depending on factors such as income level or reliance on health equipment powered by electricity, such as a ventilator.
At present, there is no legal protection against disconnections, although energy suppliers are required to provide customers with information about support options like prepayment systems and debt management advice before disconnecting their electricity supply. This article on disconnections was not included in the previous draft of the proposal. Green members of the European Parliament have written to the European Commission, urging them to ban disconnections for vulnerable people in the upcoming proposal. Some countries have already banned disconnections for vulnerable customers, such as Ireland, which did so this winter for consumers who were struggling to pay their energy bills.