Telecom, energy and Internet operators: a lot of abuse and double penalty for debtors

“If a direct debit is refused, most telecom, energy and Internet operators add their own penalties to the already high bank charges. Overbilling which is not always justified” highlighted Lionel Maugain, money, trade and housing section editor at the magazine 60 Million consumers, who has just published an investigation titled: “Unpaid bills, fees hit twice”, a file focused on electricity and telephone bills.

franceinfo: First observation, all suppliers use the same type of sanction, additional costs, in the event of late payment. Is this a legal sanction?

Lionel Maugain: It’s mostly contractual. When you sign your contract, you validate the penalties that are provided for in the event of late payment. No one knows them when you sign. And yet, they are not trivial. To take an example, the penalty at EDF, for each late invoice, is potentially 7.50 euros.

It’s the same with Total Energy, the competitor, and with mobile phone providers, Bouygues or SFR. It can reach 10 euros, so 10 euros when the average telephone bill is 14.50 euros, it is abusive, in our opinion. And we must not forget that this is in addition to the bank’s direct debit rejection fees, which are most of the time billed at 20 euros each time.

For electricity, there is a recent novelty, it is that a supplier no longer has the right to cut off the current of an individual?

Yes, in any case, it is an EDF commitment. But the problem is that if you don’t pay, there is a technician who will come to limit the supply to 3000 watts, which is really not much. And I can tell you that it happens to several hundred thousand people every year, and even more this year, because people are having a hard time paying their bills. And you should know that these travel costs are billed to you. They are added to the unpaid invoice and today they are 54 euros.

And these financial penalties, do they vary greatly from one supplier to another?

Yes, it can vary. For example, at Free, there is a penalty of one euro per day of late payment within the limit of 7.50 euros. At Orange Mobile, he prefers to require a deposit check of 400 euros. And in addition, at Orange, Internet access is suspended. But the services continue to be billed, which also seems abusive. And you can, if you don’t pay within 7 days, end up in a list called the list of bad payers. And so that is detrimental.

Because that can cause problems afterwards?

Yes, because it is a list common to all telephone and Internet operators and therefore they can consult this list and if you are on it, they can refuse you a subscription or ask you for a deposit check.

You also mention in this file, anomalies at Free, telephony packages at 0 euros per month, but which nevertheless generate penalties equivalent to unpaid invoices?

Yes, then, an unpaid invoice of 0 euro, it seems strange. But finally, there are bugs at Free, which means that there are people who have late penalties when in principle they are at zero euros, as part of their full package. You can always try to contact the operator’s customer service, and failing that, there is a mediator for each company, which you can contact to settle the dispute without going to court.

And there is another ombudsman, the national energy ombudsman. What are its functions?

It is an independent public authority whose mission is to inform consumers of their rights and to propose amicable solutions. So you contribute every time you pay your bill. There is a small contribution that goes to this mediator, which allows this authority to settle many disputes without having to wait and go through a legal settlement.

Typically, if you cannot find a solution to a delinquency problem, he is there to not only find a solution, but also he informs the general public of everything that can be seen. It makes recommendations to professionals. And if, unfortunately, this solution does not satisfy you, there will always be time to seize a judge afterwards.

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Telecom, energy and Internet operators: a lot of abuse and double penalty for debtors


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