The Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from February 18 to 20. This meeting for the off-grid solar sector is organized by GOGLA, the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry. Saskia Werther, program manager at DOEN, explains how GOGLA’s Consumer Protection Principles are contributing to sustainable and affordable energy for everyone.
Protecting the position of the end user
DOEN supports pioneers who want to make sustainable energy accessible to everyone. It is the starting point for development and gives people, for example, the opportunity to study and work longer. We support individual organizations, but also initiatives that strengthen the entire sector so that as many people as possible have access to affordable, reliable and clean energy.
GOGLA and DOEN both feel it’s important to protect the position of the end user. That is why GOGLA has set up an industry standard with consumer players, the Consumer Protection Principles. This protects customers for example against entering into excessive debts, the loss of privacy and unfair treatment during sales processes. DOEN finances the initiative from the start, together with FMO and CDC, and now also supports the second phase, putting the Principles into practice.
Consumer Protection Principles
In other sectors, where less attention was paid to protecting the customer, this caused severe problems for the end-users. For example, customers buy too much on instalment and get moredebt than they could repay, which negatively impacts daily life. It is not only problematic for the customer, but it also damages the reputation of the sector. This leads to a loss of growth capital for off-grid companies, so that they make less impact. Putting the position of the customer first ensuresa positive impact on his or her life which is the goal of the off-grid energy companies.
There are 18 principles on 6 topics: transparency, responsible sales and price, good consumer service, good product quality, data privacy and fair and respectful treatment of the customer. Indicators have been developed and a self-assessment tool has been developed to estimate how companies score on these and how they can improve their processes.
The sector is responding well, but how do we ensure that this really becomes the standard? And how do you deal with companies that score poorly on the Principles? In addition, we need financiers who only support companies that comply with these Principles. DOEN only supports companies that subscribe to these Principles, but more financiers must follow. We also hope that government policies will follow these Principles. This way, the customer can remain central and we can ensure that everyone has access to affordable and sustainable energy.
GOGLA is the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry. It is a neutral, independent, not-for-profit industry association. Their services assist the industry to build sustainable markets and profitable businesses delivering quality, affordable off-grid electricity products and services to as many customers as possible across the developing world.
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