Obligations of Essential Public Service Providers

Articles 03/10/2022

What are considered Essential Public Services? Water supply, electricity, natural gas and piped liquefied petroleum gases, electronic communications, postal services, wastewater collection and treatment services, solid urban waste management and passenger transport services.

Providers of Essential Public Services must always, if they intend to suspend the service for non-payment, give at least 20 days’ notice before the date of disconnection.

It is also evident the obligation of the service providers to make available a free phone line to the consumer or, as an alternative, adequate to the tariff of each client, instead of the previous phone lines with quite expressive added value costs.

This obligation follows the European Union Court of Justice line that “the consumer cannot pay more – that is, than what he would pay for a normal call”.

The law does not prohibit providers of essential public services from having other additional value-added telephone lines. Still, these cannot be more efficient or faster under the penalty of indirectly leading the consumer to use them.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of the Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica – ASAE, as the regulatory body, to monitor compliance with these obligations, which, despite being in force since 1 November 2021, only began to be monitored by ASAE on 1 June.

Providers of essential public services must also inform consumers/users clearly and conveniently about the applicable terms. Before signing the contract and throughout the contract, the service provider must meet high-quality standards and include the degree of user satisfaction, especially when the price varies according to these standards.

It is also the obligation of the providers to issue invoices, free of charge, supporting the users’ choice, duly specifying the values presented, detailing the services provided and the corresponding applicable tariffs.

It should be noted, in this regard, that no minimum services can be charged, nor any amounts in terms of price, rental, amortization or periodic inspection of meters or other measuring instruments of the services used, and, except for the audiovisual contribution, cannot charge fees that do not have a direct correspondence with a charge that the entity providing the service incurs.

The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.


Practice Areas

  • Public Law