Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE) has launched a consumer protection policy to protect the interests of energy and water consumers in the emirate.
The policy outlines a regulatory framework and assigns roles and responsibilities to companies that supply energy, water, sewerage, and district cooling services in the emirate.
The aim of the new consumer protection policy is to serve the community better and to safeguard its interests as a consumer of water, energy, sewerage, and district cooling services. The regulatory framework ensures the provision of the best possible services and supply safety at reasonable rates to all segments of society.
The new comprehensive policy includes clauses that support and regulate the operations of companies and service providers within the water and energy sector in Abu Dhabi. It has oversight of agreements to supply energy and water services, ensures customer data and information privacy, outlines principles for service disconnection, prohibition of service disconnections, service fees, customer complaint process, management of debts and customers in default, and services provided to People of Determination and homecare customers, among others.
Ahmed Mohammed Al Rumaithi, Under-Secretary at the DoE, said, “The new consumer protection policy prioritises the interests of consumers in its letter and spirit, and ensures that services provided by licensed companies operating in this sector comply with the highest international standards of quality. It is aligned with the department’s vision and mission to establish a regulatory framework for providing efficient and affordable energy services.
“Our consumer protection policy presents a new approach to regulating the relationship between consumers and service providers in Abu Dhabi. It ensures efficiency in the provision of services as well as flexibility in dealing with consumers, and at the same time, it regulates the relationship with them in all situations. The new policy is the result of significant efforts by our teams that cooperated with relevant authorities in the emirate. They have proposed the best regulatory standards to ensure the enhancement of customer service and its flexibility, drive the development of the energy sector, and meet our current and future needs for water and energy.”
In a first for the UAE, DoE’s consumer protection policy has instituted the rules on service disconnection for customers. Distribution companies must take due precautions to ensure the continuity of services for residential customers in critical situations, providing alternatives, if needed. It views disconnection of services as having a serious impact on consumer health and safety and on those who reside with them.
The policy also regulates monthly billing, mandating that distribution companies provide a monthly bill to customers, along with actual readings reflecting their consumption. In certain cases, bills may be issued with rough estimations, but only where actual readings are not available. The policy’s Guaranteed Service Standards call on energy companies to set performance indicators that guarantee the provision of high-quality services to customers in the Abu Dhabi as well as the provision of compensation to customers in case of standards violations.
The policy outlines procedures for management of debt and customers in default, whereby companies are urged to allow for the repayment of amounts owed to them in instalments. Companies shall investigate the financial status of such customers and inform them of the payment time frame and plans according to which instalments can be made.
Companies must also provide customers with a formal agreement while initiating their account and outline terms and conditions that protect the rights of both parties, and provide details related to restrictions on accessing the service.
How it works
According to the policy, customers must communicate with the distribution company as the first point of contact if they wish to file a complaint against the company and wait until their complaint is resolved. They can escalate it to the DoE only if they are not satisfied with the proposed solution from the service provider or company, or if they receive no response to the complaint within an agreed upon time frame.
If customers wish to discontinue the service, the company must ensure there are no pending payments and issue a certificate of acquittal. The company must also inform the customer in writing about disconnection of the service before the account closing process is initiated.
The consumer protection policy prioritises People of Determination by mandating that companies update and develop their strategy to include their needs and requirements, and ensure that they have access to all services. Companies must give priority to them when processing transactions and recruit specialised, trained, and qualified professionals to serve them. They must ensure that they send their representatives for service provision or other transactions, if required.