Abu Dhabi's Department of Energy has released a new regulatory framework for utilities that aims to protect the rights of users.
The Consumer Protection Policy governs the operations of companies providing energy, district cooling and water and wastewater services.
It covers service agreements, with the goal of ensuring end users receive the best possible services, the department said on Thursday.
The policy covers key aspects such as energy and water supply agreements, data privacy, service fees and disconnection, customer complaints and the management of debts and customers in default.
In addition, it will also focus on services provided to people of determination and home care customers.
It will comply with the top international standards by boosting the relationship between consumers and service providers, as well as ensure that utilities are flexible in dealing with users through more streamlined processes, said Ahmed Al Rumaithi, Undersecretary in the Department of Energy.
“Our consumer protection policy presents a new approach to regulating the relationship between consumers and service providers in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“It ensures efficiency in the provision of services, as well as flexibility in dealing with consumers and, at the same time, it regulates the relationship with them in all situations.”
Utilities are key for any economy as they provide services critical to homes and the operations of businesses.
Trends that have defined the sector include greater competition, infrastructure expansion, the electrification of transport, disaster readiness and traditional energy players entering the renewables segment, UK consultancy Deloitte said in a previous report.
The new framework contains a first from the UAE concerning service disconnection. The policy states that distribution companies must take due precaution to ensure the continuity of services for residential customers in critical situations and provide alternatives, if needed.
It views the disconnection of services as “having a serious impact on consumer health and safety, and on those who reside with them”.
Monthly billing regulations have also been updated, with companies now required to provide a monthly bill to customers, along with actual readings reflecting their consumption.
If actual readings are unavailable, bills with rough estimates may be issued.
For customers in default, companies are urged to allow customers to repay amounts owed in instalments, with the latter allowed to investigate the financial status of those customers and inform them of a payment timetable.
“Companies must also provide customers with a formal agreement while initiating their account and outline terms and conditions that protect the rights of both parties, and provide details related to restrictions on accessing the service,” the policy said.