Consumer Protection Strategy
The Consumer Protection Strategy is the UR’s flagship consumer protection project and was officially launched in February 2016.
The Consumer Protection Strategy is a 5 year Strategy focusing on domestic electricity, gas and water consumers in Northern Ireland. In particular, it seeks to improve consumer protection in circumstances where consumers may be considered to be vulnerable. The strategy has the following 4 objectives;
- Focus on affordability
- Make sure there is equal access to utility services
- Empower customers through education and transparency
- Provide leadership by being a best practice regulator.
The UR will monitor and review the Strategy periodically throughout the 5 year implementation plan.
Codes of Practice
Electricity and gas suppliers must comply with a number of Codes of Practice:
Conditions 30 -34 of the Electricity Licences (and the equivalent for gas) refer to codes of practice on:
- Consumers having difficulty paying bills
- Provision of services for persons who are of pensionable age or disabled or chronically sick
- Complaints Handling Procedure
- Prepayment meter customers
- Energy Efficiency
In April 2016, the UR approved minimum standards for the first 4 Codes of Practice for each electricity and gas supplier currently operating in the Northern Ireland retail energy market.
The UR has given approval to energy suppliers for their energy efficiency codes of practice. It is our intention to review the need for minimum standards in relation to the energy efficiency code of practice in year 2 of our consumer protection strategy.
The UR has also consulted on proposals to introduce the following two new codes:
Section 12 of the Energy Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (the Energy Act) makes provision for a contract to be deemed to exist, in certain circumstances, between a gas supplier and the consumer being supplied with gas.
The UR has published a document, under paragraph 12(4) of the Energy Act, containing provision for determining the ‘appropriate supplier’.