Consumers can use the information in electricity bills to get offers from other suppliers. An electricity bill is also a tool that consumers should be able to use to make sure they are not overcharged, without undue bother. The content of electricity bills cannot be significantly reduced without jeopardizing the basic information that consumers need.
In revising electricity bills it is necessary to find a balance between the need to clarify bills and the need for information, the Finnish Consumer Agency pointed out in a recent statement regarding the reform of the regulation on the specification of electricity sales prices in billing.
Consumers often find electricity bills complicated and hard to understand. In addition to the need to make bills clearer, the reform is also based on changes in the electricity market such as the trend towards online billing and the spread of electricity meters that measure consumption in real time.
Online billing with consumers' consent
The Consumer Agency sees no obstacle to developing online billing as long as customers have the possibility to choose the form of billing they prefer. Consent to online billing should be obtained from the customer when a contract is concluded or at a later date. Customers should also be able to change their mind.
Online billing is not suitable for all customers and billing in paper form should still be considered the primary method. Naturally requirements concerning the content of electricity bills should be the same in both forms of billing.
Tools are needed for comparing prices
According to the draft regulation, a bill must indicate the total amount of the annual bill for electrical energy and/or electricity transmission in euros and/or the average price per kilowatt-hour. The Consumer Agency agrees that at least one of the above should be indicated in a bill.
Even if a consumer cannot use information directly to compare rates with those of other suppliers, the information is a useful tool in making price comparisons.
For example, a consumer can use the total amount of his annual bill and consumption figures to make comparisons with other suppliers. Average price information can be used in a similar way, comparing it with other companies' rates.
Advance information is still needed
According to the present regulation, at the beginning of a balancing period a customer must be given advance information including the estimated amount of consumption during the balancing period and the number of bills that will be sent during the balancing period, together with due dates and amounts.
According to the draft regulation the supplier would no longer have to provide this advance information and a consumer receiving an estimated bill would simply be informed of the next due date. The Consumer Agency does not believe that essential information should be reduced in this way.
The balancing period is usually fairly long, normally one year. In order for consumers to manage their finances they need to know in advance at least future due dates and amounts during the balancing period as well as estimated.