The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Directive 2009/72 gives national regulatory authorities broad powers to regulate and monitor the electricity market in order to protect consumers. In this context, the Court notes that, even if not expressly provided for, the authorities may be granted additional powers to require electricity undertakings to reimburse sums received under contractual terms considered unfair. The Court concludes that the duties of transparency and consumer protection fall within the competence of the regulatory authorities, so that a Member State may confer on the regulatory authority the power to order the repayment of sums unduly levied on consumers by electricity undertakings.
The Italian regulatory authority for energy, networks and the environment imposed a fine on a company and ordered it to repay its customers a sum for breaching tariff transparency obligations. The company challenged this decision, arguing that the regulatory authority did not have the power to order repayment of the sums as this would be contrary to Directive 2009/72. The Italian court referred questions to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on the regulatory authority’s powers under the Directive and on consumer protection measures.
The Court ruled that a Member State may confer on the national regulatory authority the power to order electricity undertakings to reimburse final customers for sums paid by them under a contractual term which the authority considers to be unlawful.
The Court held that such an order for repayment by the authority does not relate solely to the quality of the service provided by the undertakings concerned, but also applies in the event of a breach of obligations relating to tariff transparency. The CJEU also held that consumer protection and compliance with tariff transparency obligations fall within the scope of the powers laid down in Article 37 of Directive 2009/72 and that, therefore, the national legislation was not contrary to the provisions of the Directive.