After a few years of living in Paris, we all know that it is challenging (to say the least) to deal with the French administration, particularly when it turns sour. I have a rather nasty story which took a turn for the worse Friday evening. The story goes way back and I could probably write a novel about it, but I'll try to keep it short. I'd love to have some feedback or ideas from the rest of you, if you have any. You can skip the "italic" part if you are in a rush, but It is an integral part of the story explaining the background of the whole situation.
I was approached by EDF Bleu Ciel in 2008 who informed me about the benefits of a Pompe à Chaleur system. The idea was that my global gas and electricity bill would be significantly reduced after the installation, which would allow me to pay off the morgage of the pompe-à-chaleur, without increasing my overall monthly budget. After having paid of the loan in a few years, I'd have a heating system that was state of the art, with extremely low energy consumption in the house and therefore have a home that was even more attractive when and if I would sell it.
After a few more rendez-vous with the EDF Bleu Ciel people, they'd sold the project to me and I couldn't wait for them to install it. They outsourced the installation to a partner company and it was done in spring 2009. The dealings with the EDF partner was anything but smooth but in the end we got all the pieces in place.
In early January 2010 it broke down, in the midst of one of the coldest winters I'd experienced in the Paris region until then. We had roughly 8-12 degrees in our house except in one bedroom where the heating sort of worked. We contacted the installation company to call on our warranty, but no luck. They'd gone bust. When we approached EDF, they either hung up on us or told us that it was not their problem as they had not done the installation.
After hours of research on the net and through our network, we were lucky to stumble upon a forum on the web where a few others had a problem with the same company. We found out the number of the professional insurance that the firm had and it turned out it was with the same insurance company that we were using for our home. They were not at all interested in helping us at first but they finally did - after 7 weeks! From January 3rd until nearly the end of February we had heating only in one bedroom...
The repair was done (3500€ aprx.) and paid for, and the technician, representing the manufacturer of our equipment, was flabbergasted. Not a single split (“diffuseur”) or either of the two pompe-a-chaleurs, had been installed correctly. Some cables had been connected to the wrong entry (!) and there were leaks and general mayhem throughout the myriad of wiring. Luckily, nothing was permanently damaged and we got everything working again after almost 2 very very cold months.
We now lived happily oblivious of a pending battle for more than a year until the next shock would come. In the summer of 2011, EDF suddenly draws nearly 4000€ from our account (on top of the 1200€/year that is automatically drawn on a monthly basis). We were on holiday when our bank called us and wondered if we were aware that EDF had taken a huge sum from our account. We had no answer to give other than to ask the bank to refuse the automatic transfer to EDF.
To cut an already long story slightly shorter, it turns out that the Pompe-à-chaleur was not as economically interesting as the EDF teams had told us. Sure, our Gaz-bill came down but now EDF wanted us to pay 5 times (!) our previous bill for the electricity (not to mention the mortgage for the equipment).
We contested the bill of course and since then, there is an ongoing dispute. Despite guarantees from EDF to take care of our case, to do an indept study, and more importantly to disregard the extra 4000€ until they have sorted out this “reclamation” of ours, we have been getting non-stop reminders, threats of cutting us off, mise-en-demeurs, and God knows what else. I have sent dozens of registered mails, many more emails and spent hours on the phone with their so called Service Client (by the way, since April they have put in place a new strategy which is called 100% client, but to me it seems that we are not part of the 100%…). Everytime you speak to them it is a new person on line and you have to explain the story again and again (and as you have seen, it is a long and rather complicated one). Our initial complaint from August 2011 has still not been treated. We have received partial replies that never treat the actual issue at hand. I.e., the machines “sold” by EDF, installed by a (fraudulous) EDF partner consumes way too much. The additional invoice, and their new monthly bills that are significantly higher than before are due to this, and this is what the dispute is all about.
The new monthly billing scheme was sent to us by end 2011/2012. This was based on the “new” consumption and therefore much higher than the previous one. We claimed that this was part of the dispute and that we would not pay this. However, we said that we will gladly continue to pay the monthly bills that we had from before, until this mess has been sorted out. EDF declined.
Anyhow, despite their promises (the last one I got by phone on August 2nd this year before going on holiday) not to change anything to our line or most importantly not to cut us off until the end of the dispute/reclamation, our electricity disappeared on Friday night. We’d just come home from Holidays and restocked our empty fridge and freezer.
First call to the service depannage on Friday night. Answer : “we cannot do anything unless EDF gives us their green light. You can call them at 8am Saturday morning”. Went to bed boiling, not only because I was feeling abused, borderline raped, but also because we had no fans, A/C or any other mean to cool us down whilst sleeping.
Saturday morning, second call. Answer : “pay your outstanding bills (i.e. the disputed €3500) or we will not put you back on”. His attitude was un-describable. Arrogant would be the understatement of the century, and after a series of insults from him (!), though in my opinion the other way around would have been more appropriate, he put the phone down.
Third call. Answer : “yes, you are right, you should not have been cut off before the end of the litige, but I cannot help you (even if you pay the “outstanding bill”) as we have no technicians available for ‘these kind of interventions’…I’m sorry I cannot help”.
After a weekend “in the dark” litterally, I call again this morning and after over 2 hours with the girl, with more threats and plain blackmailing from them, we now got the electricity back, but at a hefty price. Initially, it was again reiterated that EDF will not put the line back on unless we pay the €3500 euros. On numerous occasions she said “I am hanging up” which seems to be customary procedure when they do not want to play customer service anymore. I kept the girl online and after a whole lot of debating, negotiating and swearing I got the amount down to 1200€ (equivalent to 1 year of electricity consumption based on our “pre-pompe-à-chaleur” era). We got the electricity back 4 hours later.
I am at a loss what to do now. I had to verbally accept to pay the new revised monthly bills (220€/month, i.e. more than twice the previous amount) and to reimburse the rest of the €3500 debt before the end of the year. I know that I will never see the money again if I do pay them. If I don’t, I will be cut off again.
We have of course discussed changing the power company. If I do, does EDF still have the power to cut me off if/when we have sorted out our litige and if we are not in agreement?
If anyone of you were brave enough to read all the way to this part of the text – hat’s off to you! – do you have any ideas and any energy left to type an answer to this very long message. Despite the many characters, some juicy details have been left out (such as the fact that a family member of the “gerant” of the company who did the installation, started up a new company in the same business, at almost the same address as the one that put themselves in bankruptcy, pretty much at the same time. This company almost immediately became partner with EDF…).
Would be very glad to hear your opinions and recommendations! Thanks in advance.