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Westminster awarded three-year research grant to seek access to justice for vulnerable energy consumers

Law 19 June 2017

Chris Gill and Naomi Creutzfeldt

Dr Naomi Creutzfeldt (pictured above right), Lecturer in Law in the Westminster Law School, has been awarded £449,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to conduct research into the access to justice available to vulnerable and energy-poor consumers in the European Energy Market. 

The research will seek to compare how Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies across six countries in the energy sector provide pathways to access justice for their vulnerable users.

The energy sector has been in the spotlight recently for overpricing and underserving their customers. 8.9 million problems were experienced in the energy sector in the UK in 2015 alone, and the European Union has mandated the energy sector to use ADR as a means of promoting access to justice.

ADR refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom using methods like arbitration and mediation. Consumer ADR bodies exist to help consumers resolve problems they encounter with faulty goods and services. ADR is an important pathway to access justice for consumers and is aimed at making it easier for all of us to feel more confident and empowered.

Dr Creutzfeldt, Principal Investigator of the research project, together with Dr Chris Gill, Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Glasgow, (pictured above left) believe that a better understanding of these bodies is necessary to support consumers in the energy sector.

Over the three years the research will aim to gather data that will show: who uses ADR mechanisms and how many of those users are vulnerable; the way in which vulnerable and non-vulnerable users experience the ADR process; the extent to which ADR mechanisms are accessible to vulnerable consumers and how much they meet their needs; and the relationship between consumer protection measures and the accessibility of ADR mechanisms.

The project will begin in September 2017 and will conclude in 2020 culminating in an international end-of-project conference hosted at the University of Glasgow. The research outcomes will positively impact energy consumers and the general public as well as specialist audiences including ADR bodies, policymakers, regulators, consumer advisers, and energy providers.

For more information and updates on the research as it progresses, please follow the blog and social media channels.

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