Under the Energy Act (Section 11q), as of 1 July 2022 consumers are entitled to apply to the ERO for the resolution of disputes over the performance of obligations under contracts for energy intermediation. The resolution of such disputes follows the Consumer Protection Act (Part Four), where the ADR objective is to reach agreement between the consumer and the intermediary. Where no agreement is reached, no binding decision is delivered.
ADR Rules for Consumers and Intermediaries
Under the Consumer Protection Act (Section 20x) and the Energy Act (Section 11q(2)), the ERO has issued ADR Rules for Consumers and Intermediaries that set forth the ADR procedure in more detail (hereinafter ‘the Rules’).
These Rules specify the procedure to be followed by the Energy Regulatory Office in alternative dispute resolution of consumer disputes (hereinafter also ‘ADR’) with intermediaries in the energy industries.
The Energy Regulatory Office is an ADR body within the scope set out in Section 20e(c) of the Consumer Protection Act. For alternative dispute resolution between consumers and suppliers of electrical energy and gas (holders of licences for electricity and/or gas trading) within the scope of Section 17(7) of the Energy Act, Act No 500/2004 Rules of Administrative Procedure, as amended (hereinafter ‘Rules of Administrative Procedure’) is applicable to the full extent.
Pro alternative dispute resolution with intermediaries in the energy industries within the meaning of Section 11q of the Energy Act, the procedure in Part Four of the Consumer Protection Act and also the Rules of Administrative Procedure, to the extent of the key principles of administrative authorities’ activities under Section 177(1) of the Rules of Administrative Procedure, are used. Alternative dispute resolution is not administrative proceedings under the Rules of Administrative Procedure.
On behalf of the Energy Regulator Office, authorised officials appointed in the Energy Regulatory Office’s internal directive carry out the steps in ADR proceedings.
The purpose of conducting alternative dispute resolution is not to deliver a legally binding administrative decision. The purpose of conducting alternative dispute resolution is to achieve an out-of-court settlement of the dispute between the consumer and the intermediary and the parties’ agreement based on their communication through the Energy Regulatory Office.
The ADR process is initiated upon an application submitted by the consumer (hereinafter also ‘the applicant’). The consumer can use the model form posted on the Energy Regulatory Office’s website as the basis for submitting the application.
The application for commencing alternative dispute resolution must contain the following:
- Identification of the parties to the dispute;
- Complete and comprehensible description of the relevant facts;
- Specification of what the applicant seeks;
- Information about when the applicant first exercised, vis-à-vis the intermediary, his/her right that is the subject matter of the dispute;
- Statement that no court has ruled on the matter, no arbitral award has been delivered, and no agreement has been reached between the parties in out-of-court consumer dispute resolution, and also that no court proceedings, arbitration, or out-of-court resolution of the consumer dispute have been brought/commenced;
- The date and the applicant’s signature.
In the description of the relevant facts the consumer should specify the substance of the dispute at hand and the facts on the basis of which the consumer believes to be in the right. In the specification of what the consumer is seeking, he/she should specifically note the right that he/she is seeking against the intermediary (the right to have the intermediary perform an obligation, desist from something, etc.). The subject matter of applications to be considered must not be a preventive request for a declaration (determination that a particular right or obligation exists or does not exist although up to that point the intermediary was not acting contrary to the consumer’s claimed right or raising any unjustified claims against the consumer), unless the consumer has an urgent interest in such declaration and describes such interest in his/her application.
The application can be submitted in writing, or in person for the record, or electronically through the data mailbox of the person that is submitting the application, or using any other means of electronic communication if an advanced electronic signature is attached. If the application is confirmed within ten days, or supplemented using one of the methods set out in the first sentence, it can be submitted using some other technical means, in particular, but without limitation, via facsimile transmission or a public data network without using a recognised electronic signature. The applicant can submit his/her application within one year from the day on which he/she first exercised against the intermediary the right constituting the subject matter of the dispute.
A document proving that the applicant addressed the dispute with the other party directly before submitting the application and any other written documents proving the facts that the applicant is claiming should be annexed to the application. Where the applicant is unable to document such facts, he/she can refer to facts ascertainable from other sources accessible to the administrative authority (the ERO) or the facts known to the intermediary.
If the application does not contain the required details or does not include the required documents, the applicant is invited to supply them within 15 calendar days. Following that period, the applicant’s application is dismissed.
The Energy Regulatory Office also dismisses the application where it finds that the dispute does not fall within its subject-matter jurisdiction, or that a court has already decided on the matter, or that an arbitral award has been delivered, or that court proceedings or arbitration have been brought/commenced, or that alternative dispute resolution has been commenced or concluded in respect of the same matter, or that the applicant submitted the application after the set time limit, or that the application is manifestly ill-founded.
An application is manifestly ill-founded when, in particular, but without limitation, it has been submitted repeatedly and the applicant has not documented new facts or has not remedied the defects found in the application, or when by submitting it the applicant obviously intends to abuse rights to the prejudice of the other party. The application can be viewed as ill-founded when insolvency proceedings under Act No 182/2006 on Insolvency and Methods for Addressing Insolvencies (the Insolvency Act) have been brought against the intermediary and the effects of these insolvency proceedings persist; or when the intermediary has entered into liquidation under Act No 89/2012, the Civil Code, and the applicant has not yet exercised the right that is the subject matter of the dispute.
The Energy Regulatory Office notes the dismissal of the application in the file and does not deliver any order. The dismissal, together with the grounds for the dismissal, must be communicated to the ADR parties within 15 calendar days of receipt of the application, unless the facts establishing the grounds for dismissal are found later only; in such an event, this communication must be effected without undue delay from the finding of the facts.
The ADR process is initiated on the day on which the Energy Regulatory Office receives the application. Where the Energy Regulatory Office does not dismiss the application it notifies the parties to the dispute that ADR has been commenced, and in compliance with the law advises them of their rights. Provided that the nature of the dispute, the extent of the facts claimed by the consumer, and the documents on the subject matter of the dispute supplied by the consumer allow, the Energy Regulatory Office can send its preliminary opinion on the subject matter of the dispute together with the above notification to the parties.
Within 15 business days from receipt of the notification under Article 15 above, the intermediary must provide the Energy Regulatory Office with its comments on the facts claimed in the application. The intermediary has the obligation of close cooperation with the Energy Regulatory Office and of providing the Energy Regulatory Office with the cooperation required for the efficient running of the ADR process within the meaning of Section 11q of the Energy Act.
Where the intermediary is acting contrary to Section 11q of the Energy Act, the Energy Regulatory Office’s unit competent to conduct ADR proceedings with intermediaries must initiate, without undue delay, a motion for sanction proceedings with the intermediary on the commission of an administrative offence under Section 91c(1)(j) of the Energy Act.
The ADR proceedings must be concluded within 90 days from their commencement. In the event of particularly complex disputes, the Energy Regulatory Office can extend this period by no more than another 90 days, promptly notifying both parties thereof.
The ADR proceedings are concluded by the parties to the dispute reaching an agreement, by the consumer’s unilateral statement to the Energy Regulatory Office of discontinuing his/her participation in dispute resolution, by the consumer’s demise, when the consumer is declared to be dead or missing, by the extinction of one of the parties to the dispute without a legal successor, by the expiration of the period for conducting the dispute under Article 18, or by the dismissal of the application.
The Energy Regulatory Office must notify the other party to the dispute of the conclusion of the ADR proceedings without undue delay, unless it is evident from the submitted agreement between the parties that both of them are aware of the conclusion of dispute resolution. The agreement on alternative resolution of the consumer dispute must be in writing or have the form of the intermediary’s consenting confirmation that the subject matter of the dispute between the parties no longer exists, together with proof of the fact that it has informed the consumer about reaching the agreement. If the intermediary submits the proposal for agreement to the Energy Regulatory Office, the latter sends this proposal to the applicant, allowing a reasonable time for the applicant to communicate whether or not he/she accepts the agreement.
Should the Energy Regulatory Office consider it to be appropriate it may, in the event that the consideration of the consumer dispute is not heading towards an agreement, deliver its reasoned but non-binding opinion on the subject matter of the dispute, and serve it on the parties together with a notice of discontinuing the dispute or before the end of the period for conducting the dispute.
The duty to serve paperwork on the parties to the dispute has been discharged when such documents are delivered through a public data network to the addressee’s data mailbox, or to the address specified in the application for commencing alternative dispute resolution, or to the address, including electronic address, that the parties to the dispute communicate to the Energy Regulatory Office for the purposes of service. In the event that the intermediary’s address specified in the application differs from its registered office listed in a public register, documents can be served on it at the address specified in the application unless it is evident from the content of the file that the delivery address specified in the application had been specified as the contact address for the consumer.
In dispute resolution, hearings take place and paperwork is usually submitted in the Czech language. The parties to the dispute may also speak and submit paperwork in the Slovak language; documents can also be submitted in other languages and the party that invokes, during the proceedings, paperwork produced in a language other than Czech, Slovak or English must supply a translation thereof into the Czech language at a request of the other party to the dispute or the administrative authority (the ERO).
In each dispute, a file with an assigned file reference number must be maintained. The file contains the application, including annexes thereto, any other acts made by the parties to the dispute, acts made by the administrative authority (the ERO), and other submissions related to the dispute. The parties to the dispute have the right to consult the file and the right to receive copies of the paperwork contained in the file. When the application is being submitted, the Energy Regulatory Office may check the consumer’s identity in the Population Register and gather information about the supply to the consumer’s supply point from the market operator’s system.
Each of the parties to the proceedings shall bear their own costs.
These Rules become valid on the day of posting on the Energy Regulatory Office’s website and effective on 1 July 2022.