Brussels, Belgium --- (METERING.COM) --- July 13, 2012 - Price comparison tools (PCTs) for consumers should be independent from energy supply companies, accurate, and ideally present the full range of offers available, according to new good practice guidelines from the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER).

Customers then need clear and comprehensive information to help them understand and use this information. They also need to be able to filter choices in order to choose the best offer for their circumstances.

The guidelines have been developed following the finding that many customers did not have access to neutral, objective information that empowers them to take an active role in the liberalized energy markets, by switching contracts or suppliers to obtain a better deal. In some cases this information was provided, but customers had trouble finding it.

According to the guidelines there are a range of routes to setting standards for PCTs. A national regulatory authority or another public body may establish their own PCT or they may regulate private PCTs. Alternatively, self regulation by PCT providers may be appropriate.

The 14 recommendations for PCTs cover the themes of independence, transparency, exhaustiveness, clarity and comprehensibility, correct and accurate, user friendliness, accessibility and customer empowerment.

These should be taken into account by all PCTs, in relation to the market within which they operate. It is not the intent to define one fully harmonized PCT for all European countries.

PCTs can empower energy customers if they provide a clear and trusted service and if additional information is available to help the customer to navigate and understand the market, states the document. Part of this empowerment is ensuring that PCTs are accessible to those customers who do not have access to the internet.

According to CEER’s guidelines on retail market monitoring indicators, a PCT can be considered to be reliable if it meets the following requirements:

  1. Information is correct and not misleading
  2. If bills are calculated, this calculation should be based on clear and transparent assumptions
  3. Key information related to the tariff (e.g. type of contract or duration of any discounts) is clearly presented to the customer.