Terrorised by EDF

Hi there

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.

Mine is the Caisse Maladie, also trying to get work finished which is. It up to standard.
I can only imagine how awful it was being in a new country and no 'phone to contact anyone.

thats what I mean Finn....mistakes are made...but in the UK at least you can speak to a named person, and get something done.... thats another thing Ive noticed...FT employees wont give us a name...so you cant complain about a specific employee.

Jane...I personally have a huge problem with FT...they ruined my first 6 months in France, including Xmas and New Year. They cost us hundreds of euro's, their English line, which we rang no less than a dozen times did nothing to help and we have never had so much as a sorry from them. They dont learn by their mistakes, and I meet people daily here who have problems with FT. BT can make its fair share of bloopers. But twice Ive had to contact them and their customer service department has sorted my problem on first contact.... FT forever the devils spawn as far as I am concerned!

In our daughter’s apartment she was connected by mistake to another person’s line. They made frequent calls to South America, which appeared on her bill and which Deutsches Telecom insisted she had made.
It took some time for Deutsches Telecom to realise what their engineer had done. So FT is not alone. They have now chAnged their supplier.

Thank you Marie-Claire, the European courts are massively underused for such issues. Fine, it means that those people who go beyond national courts are dealt with fairly quickly, but that is not the point. Yes, the authorities and courts are making it difficult to take complaints and litigation to the next instance, but there is usually no actual reason why a complainant cannot set a deadline within the existing deadlines for a response. No response with the deadline approaching, go one instance higher. We are doing it in the children's right field and fortunately do not need to pay lawyers because we have enough of them in our midst. It is never publicised of course, but there have been some dozens of legal processes I have been party to in several EU countries, as yet not France (surprisingly) included, that then affect all member states. The same courts deal with all other civil issues. So on that point I disagree with Finn, but as to complaints being well focussed and argued, of course, that applies anywhere. But don't start ranting about whether they are a monopoly or not because then no court will be interested, let them be told in no uncertain terms that the are operating a stranglehold on customers and it the decision at any instance decides to also fine them then it should come into the public domain. They look silly and vulnerable and government will sit up and look closely at them. Even in France.

we had no line connected to our new apartment...funny enough the other 30 flats didnt have a problem....they just kept saying 'there is a problem..' they said that for 5 months...our neighbour discovered the problem was a piece of land 3 ft wide, and no one knew who owned it...so they wouldnt dig it....our neighbour did....and they then laid the cable...but they wouldnt explain to us what was wrong...I really was ready to strangle someone!

FT is another monopoly from hell, I just can't figure out how they managed to survive as they were always by a long, long stretch the most incompetent, rude, pig-headed administration in France.... and that's saying a lot. Did you have to sign up with them? Sometimes they are the only ones, and other companies have to rent lines from them in any case, but nevertheless, I've found other providers marginally better, actually, Bouygues is better, the others seem just as hopeless.

Officially they aren't a monopoly, but de facto, they are. Most problems can be solved just going to the office, if things spiral out of control, or there is a lot of money at stake, you'll obviously need to send in a lot of documentary evidence. Providing you are ready for them to lose it, of course.

European courts should come into the picture insofar as all the "competition" is in fact organised by EDF and goes belly-up in no time, this goes against european rules.

and that rarely works either Marie=Claire...we had terrible probems with FT and visited their Perpignan office no less than 7 times...with no effect! the only thing that eventually worked was our French neighbour going to the office and causing a holy stink...shouting etc....something I wouldnt have had the confidence to do...he was a school teacher and really went for it....without him we still wouldnt have broadband and telephone 3 years on!

EDF... we're talking about a monopoly a State institution which has, for example, cut off airports "by mistake" and without even been fined. If anybody can do something, it will have to be taken before the european court. As this is rather unlikely, and before things go too far, the best (as with all french administrations) is to go directly to their office, don't bother writing, even registered.

I am still in my depth in the UK....here...there is a no win attitude for the consumer. In the UK I used a broadband supplier and recently my broadband went down...they asked me to get a screwdriver...at that point I told them no way...forget it....I pay...you do the repairs.....and it worked. Here...I had no service for weeks....because? no idea...but they 'couldnt come out because of a problem'........My MP in Newbury is brilliant for instance...Ive written to him on behalf of my work and personally and get a reply in 5 days..here Ive written to 3 MPs and been ignored. France ignores the welfare of consumers....everything is made too difficult...starting a business is ten times harder here....I just cant be bothered any more....I want an easier life...not one ten times harder.

Yup! Agree!

I am so glad you said that Finn.....after a disasterous first couple of years...we have become so vigilante its annoying me! but we distrust any of the big companies and are aware that we are out of our depth here...in the UK no problems, I have won out against several big companies, but here I dont understand the rules...which seem to change....and certainly are never on the side of the consumer....good luck with your move.

Except Carol, that the present UK government is making 'similar' things happen in the UK as corporatism replaces welfarism and it is all but a crime not to be wealthy. Neither country has ever tasted any form of socialism and France most certainly not got it at this point in time. What both countries, and many more, share is the hand of the wealthy corporations who control all but the air we breath becoming more and more clenched fists that squeeze all there is to sqeeze out of each and every one of us. I am old enough to be a bit complacent but I have children and what kind of world will they have?


And just to add to it Catharine. Amongst our French friends are people who actually want to see French law working as it is meant to, where it does not then European law become more accessible to them and the Noddy light become the beacon it is meant to be. A Noddy light it may be, but it is the only bloody one there is... Those of us who work in human and civil rights related areas have seen the European courts work where national laws adopt blinkers. That should expand to all areas.

My CH page - Melodie BN.

here here!!!

Can't see the post, Catharine. Is it on your own CH page or SFN page?