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Directive 2009/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the CouncilShow full title

Directive 2009/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas and repealing Directive 2003/55/EC (Text with EEA relevance)

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Article 3Public service obligations and customer protection

1.Member States shall ensure, on the basis of their institutional organisation and with due regard to the principle of subsidiarity, that, without prejudice to paragraph 2, natural gas undertakings are operated in accordance with the principles of this Directive with a view to achieving a competitive, secure and environmentally sustainable market in natural gas, and shall not discriminate between those undertakings as regards their rights or obligations.

2.Having full regard to the relevant provisions of the Treaty, in particular Article 86 thereof, Member States may impose on undertakings operating in the gas sector, in the general economic interest, public service obligations which may relate to security, including security of supply, regularity, quality and price of supplies, and environmental protection, including energy efficiency, energy from renewable sources and climate protection. Such obligations shall be clearly defined, transparent, non-discriminatory, verifiable and shall guarantee equality of access for natural gas undertakings of the Community to national consumers. In relation to security of supply, energy efficiency/demand-side management and for the fulfilment of environmental goals and goals for energy from renewable sources, as referred to in this paragraph, Member States may introduce the implementation of long-term planning, taking into account the possibility of third parties seeking access to the system.

3.Member States shall take appropriate measures to protect final customers, and shall, in particular, ensure that there are adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable customers. In this context, each Member State shall define the concept of vulnerable customers which may refer to energy poverty and, inter alia, to the prohibition of disconnection of gas to such customers in critical times. Member States shall ensure that rights and obligations linked to vulnerable customers are applied. In particular, they shall take appropriate measures to protect final customers in remote areas who are connected to the gas system. Member States may appoint a supplier of last resort for customers connected to the gas system. They shall ensure high levels of consumer protection, particularly with respect to transparency regarding contractual terms and conditions, general information and dispute settlement mechanisms. Member States shall ensure that the eligible customer is in fact able easily to switch to a new supplier. As regards at least household customers those measures shall include those set out in Annex I.

4.Member States shall take appropriate measures, such as formulating national energy action plans, providing social security benefits to ensure the necessary gas supply to vulnerable customers, or providing for support for energy efficiency improvements, to address energy poverty where identified, including in the broader context of poverty. Such measures shall not impede the effective opening of the market set out in Article 37 and market functioning and shall be notified to the Commission, where relevant, in accordance with paragraph 11 of this Article. Such notification shall not include measures taken within the general social security system.

5.Member States shall ensure that all customers connected to the gas network are entitled to have their gas provided by a supplier, subject to the supplier's agreement, regardless of the Member State in which the supplier is registered, as long as the supplier follows the applicable trading and balancing rules and subject to security of supply requirements. In this regard, Member States shall take all measures necessary to ensure that administrative procedures do not constitute a barrier for supply undertakings already registered in another Member State.

6.Member States shall ensure that:

(a)

where a customer, while respecting the contractual conditions, wishes to change supplier, the change is effected by the operator(s) concerned within three weeks; and

(b)

customers are entitled to receive all relevant consumption data.

Member States shall ensure that the rights referred to in points (a) and (b) of the first subparagraph are granted to customers in a non-discriminatory manner as regards cost, effort or time.

7.Member States shall implement appropriate measures to achieve the objectives of social and economic cohesion and environmental protection, which may include means to combat climate change, and security of supply. Such measures may include, in particular, the provision of adequate economic incentives, using, where appropriate, all existing national and Community tools, for the maintenance and construction of necessary network infrastructure, including interconnection capacity.

8.In order to promote energy efficiency, Member States or, where a Member State has so provided, the regulatory authority shall strongly recommend that natural gas undertakings optimise the use of gas, for example by providing energy management services, developing innovative pricing formulas or introducing intelligent metering systems or smart grids where appropriate.

9.Member States shall ensure the provision of single points of contact to provide consumers with all necessary information concerning their rights, current legislation and the means of dispute settlement available to them in the event of a dispute. Such contact points may be part of general consumer information points.

Member States shall ensure that an independent mechanism such as an energy ombudsman or a consumer body is in place in order to ensure efficient treatment of complaints and out-of-court dispute settlements.

10.Member States may decide not to apply the provisions of Article 4 with respect to distribution insofar as their application would obstruct, in law or in fact, the performance of the obligations imposed on natural gas undertakings in the general economic interest and insofar as the development of trade would not be affected to such an extent as would be contrary to the interests of the Community. The interests of the Community include, inter alia, competition with regard to eligible customers in accordance with this Directive and Article 86 of the Treaty.

11.Member States shall, upon implementation of this Directive, inform the Commission of all measures adopted to fulfil public service obligations, including consumer and environmental protection, and their possible effect on national and international competition, whether or not such measures require a derogation from the provisions of this Directive. They shall notify the Commission subsequently every two years of any changes to such measures, whether or not they require a derogation from this Directive.

12.The Commission shall establish, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Member States, the national regulatory authorities, consumer organisations and natural gas undertakings, a clear and concise energy consumer checklist of practical information relating to energy consumer rights. Member States shall ensure that gas suppliers or distribution system operators, in cooperation with the regulatory authority, take the necessary steps to provide their consumers with a copy of the energy consumer checklist and ensure that it is made publicly available.

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