The European Commission organised today a roundtable meeting to consult key stakeholders regarding the protection of EU consumers in the context of the energy crisis. In light of high energy prices and the overall impact of the crisis on the cost of living, both the EU and EU countries have been taking measures to support consumers, especially vulnerable ones, in their ability to pay their energy bills and to ensure access to energy supplies. Today's meeting will gather energy regulators, energy providers, consumers associations and representatives of the EU and EU countries.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said:
Most European consumers have adapted their consumption patterns to save on energy. Nonetheless, many of them are worried about their capacity to pay their bills. In light of these challenging times, the Commission remains determined to find alternative options to help consumers alleviate the situation. This is precisely why we have decided to convene this roundtable for energy providers and authorities to learn from best practices.
Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said:
"EU consumers have been at the heart of our action to tackle high energy prices for the past year. It is our top priority to protect them from the impact of this energy crisis, making sure everyone gets the necessary support and no one is cut off from energy supply. With our recent proposals, the Commission has made additional funding available for the Member States to help vulnerable consumers, households and businesses.
With its Energy Prices Toolbox and further communications, the Commission has provided EU countries with guidance on immediate measures to protect consumers such emergency income support, temporary deferrals of bill payments, temporary and targeted tax reductions and safeguards to avoid disconnections from the grid. Recently, it also came forward with an emergency market intervention to collect surplus revenues from the energy sector and redistribute them to consumers.
Following up on the conclusions of the European Council of October, today's meeting is aimed at fostering an exchange between key stakeholders at EU level on further potential measures to mitigate the impact of high energy prices on households. Indeed, results of a survey published today by the Commission confirm that almost half of European consumers (48%) are concerned about paying their bills in the next six months. It also shows that a large majority of them have changed habits to save energy at home (71%).
Background & Comment
Since the beginning of Russian aggression in Ukraine this year, Europe is facing an energy crisis over sanctions. Russia is accused of using energy and food as a weapon. Energy prices are significantly effecting consumer prices and thus inflation. Belgian STATBEL noted that, inflation in October has gone up from 11.27% to 12.27%, reaching its highest level since June 1975, when it stood at 12.50%.
In this context, Europe needs the support of its industrial companies to save energy in a context of soaring costs and dwindling supplies. And they play the game, half-voluntary, half-forced, since the demand for natural gas and electricity has decreased during the last quarter. Besides, EU and EU member states are trying to protect consumers and avoid higher inflation rates. The European Central Bank already raised interest rates again recently and put the reduction of its bloated balance sheet on the agenda, but said "substantial" progress had already been made in its bid to fight off a historic surge in inflation.