Press release

Energy: from 2017 operators and customers are obliged to attempt at conciliation in disputes over supply

Milan, May 06, 2016

Italian Flag Italian version

From January 2017, the customer, following a complaint to the operator, must do an attempt to conciliation with the Authority's Service in disputes between electricity and gas customers and companies. This Service becomes the main grounds for resolving issues between the parties. In case of an unsuccessful attempt at conciliation, it will be an indispensable condition for any subsequent appeal to the court. This obligation will be progressively put in place also for the other regulated sectors.

These are the changes  in  the Integrated Text on Conciliation (TICO), approved by the Regulatory Authority for energy, which is used to adopt comprehensive governance of extra-judicial dispute resolution, reforming the current regime that allows consumers to choose between the Conciliation Service and the second level complaints at the consumer Help Desk. In this way, the provisions of the law establishing the Regulatory Authority and the Consumer Code are implemented [1].

From 2017 domestic and non-domestic electricity and gas customers, including prosumers (i.e. those who are both producers and consumers of electricity at the same time) should only turn to conciliation to resolve unresolved disputes complaint level with the operator. An attempt at conciliation that then becomes indispensable for any subsequent judicial action, with the statement of agreement that is enforceable between the parties. A mandatory conciliation attempt, which should be concluded within 90 days, will be carried out free of charge for the customer by the Authority's Conciliation Service, if within their power, or alternatively by other bodies envisaged by the TICO, including joint conciliation of consumer Associations registered in the list of the Authority's ADR bodies or by the Chambers of Commerce.  
In detail, as happens currently, if the customer is facing problems with the operator he should always send a complaint to the supplier and if he receives a partial or unsatisfactory response within a maximum of 1 year from sending the complaint, the customer may activate the conciliation procedure. If the response does not arrive, the request for activation may be made after 50 days following sending the complaint. The first meeting must be held within 30 days from the request and not before 10 days from communication to the parties. Nevertheless the first meeting before the conciliator is considered to be a 'conciliation attempt' even if it is concluded without agreement or if the counterparty does not attend, without prejudice to any sanction proceedings in relation to the defaulted operator. Carrying out the obligatory conciliation attempt may not preclude the granting of interim and protective court measures by the judge in favour of the customer.

Furthermore, faster resolution times are guaranteed in the event that the customer promptly documents suspension of the supply for a contested bill with the complaint submitted to the Conciliation Service. The first meeting should in fact be set within 15 days from the request (rather than 30 days), but not before 5 days from communication to the parties (rather than 10 days) and the party may not request postponement of the meeting, an option that is however possible in standard cases. 

[1] The new article 141, paragraph 6, letter c) of the Consumer Code (introduced by Italian legislative decree of 6th August 2015, No. 130 implementing directive 2013/11/EU on ADR for consumers) states that "This is without prejudice to the following provisions that envisage the binding nature of extrajudicial dispute resolution procedures: [...] article 2, paragraph 24, letter b) of Italian law 14 November 1995, No.481 which envisages the obligatory attempt at conciliation on matters covered by the Regulatory Authority for Electricity, Gas and Water, and whose methods are regulated by the Authority for Electricity, Gas and Water with its own provisions".