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Disputes resolution mechanisms between consumers and energy distributors
The principles that underlie the best practices
November 23rd, 2016 – In the the energy sector, consumers do not have access to the same dispute resolution mechanisms in every province. While most Canadian provinces can count on an administrative tribunal which has jurisdiction over the distribution of energy, but not all have access to an independent ombudsman that is mandated to receive complaints about energy distributor. This inequity emerges from a research conducted by Option consommateurs in 2015-16.

The purpose of this study was to identify remedies offered to customers of Canadian energy distributors when they are dissatisfied, and to highlight the best guidelines that underlie the best practices. “Companies that have dispute resolution mechanisms should ensure that they are simple, well-known and accessible, says Olivier Bourgeois, Coordinator, Energy and Corporate Social Responsibility for Option consommateurs. The simplification and dejudicialisation of these mechanisms should be paramount in any discussion to improve the handling of complaints.”

Option consommateurs believes it is also important for consumers to have access to external dispute review mechanisms. In this regard, we highlight that Alberta now has a Utilities Consumer Advocate, which assist consumers in their dealings with energy distributors by providing them with comprehensive mediation services. Finally, we wish to emphasize that in order to be truly fair, dispute resolution mechanisms must be free and take into account the needs of consumers, which are of course, different from those of businesses.

In conducting this research, we studied dispute prevention and settlement theory and the theory of participatory justice. We reviewed the provincial regulations governing public utility tribunals, energy distributors and ombudsmen, and we studied the body of standards regarding dispute settlements. Finally, we conducted a series of interviews with consumers who have recently been involved in a dispute resolution mechanism provided by their energy provider or public utility tribunal in order to gather their experiences and impressions.

This study, we hope will be of interest to energy distributors and organizations that have the mandate to review complaints. This study contains relevant information and recommendations likely to help them improve their dispute resolution mechanisms in the energy sector.

The study is called "Disputes resolution mechanisms between consumers and energy distributors: The principles that underlie the best practices". It was made possible through a financial contribution by the Office of Consumer Affairs, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Click here to download the report "Disputes between consumers and energy distributors : An uneven playing field?"

About Option consommateurs

Option consommateurs is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote and defend the rights and interests of consumers. In order to do so, it institute class action suits. Option consommateurs is interested in various issues, namely business practices, financial services, energy, agro food and health.

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Source : Annik Bélanger-Krams, attorney, tel. : 514-777-6133

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