Martinez Jürgen: Ombudsman office in Germany protects the rights of electricity and gas consumers


Kyiv, 21 October 2016. In Germany 1,100 companies supply electricity and another 600 – gas for the population. The competition is very tough there because the Germans can choose a supplier. But the country also has a number of other problems which cannot always be solved by the state and applying to court may be too expensive. Therefore, organizations dealing with consumer rights set up the Ombudsman office in 2011. It includes representatives of state bodies and energy community. It is completely independent from the government and does not receive any funding from it. “It is sometimes difficult for consumers to understand a problem concerning the supplier. Then there are additional attorney fees and court costs. Many small consumers do not want to deal with this. The Ombudsman system, in contrast, works fast and does not require such expenses,” said Martinez Jürgen, ombudsman of Schlichtungsstelle Energie, Germany, at a discussion held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

According to him, the question consideration has two stages: a consumer turns to a supplier. The company has a month to solve the problem. If the issue is not resolved, the consumer may apply to the Ombudsman. This can be done via the Internet. “The supplier is obliged to participate in the process. It makes fixed contributions every time the Ombudsman considers such cases. This finances the office’s activity,” explained Mr. Jürgen. However, he said, not all companies agree to pay, often it comes to court. The total debt of companies has reached 200,000 euros. “I think that our office should have state security. This can include guarantees for the reimbursement of our costs, for example,” noted Martinez Jürgen. He added that the suppliers can also contact the office with their complaints but there have been only a few similar cases.

Jose Manuel Hernandez, First Secretary of the European Commission delegation to Ukraine, “Competition Policy and Energy Markets”, cited statistics according to which electricity and gas supplies are not very effective: almost half of all consumer complaints over the past 4 years have been about these sectors, 30% are accounts. He said that consumer protection is a priority for the European policy. But, according to him, they have not found any projects aimed at consumer protection in Ukraine yet.

Mr Hernandez says that, according to European standards, every consumer can choose a supplier. Ukraine has only regional power companies and there is no choice. A European consumer has access to all the information: on their energy efficiency and the ways to improve it. These data give the opportunity to choose a provider according to their needs and plans. A supplier is also obliged to provide information about what should be done if a complaint is not satisfied: where to go and what the sequence of actions is.