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EDF ends power cuts to cash-strapped households over unpaid bills

French households struggling to pay their electricity bills will face a reduction in supply, rather than a total cut, when the 'winter truce' ends on Friday

Glowing filament of an electric light bulb to illustrate a story about French electicity supplier EDF
Photo: Anthony Indraus / Unsplash

Customers who have fallen behind with their electricity bills during the winter months could find that their supply is reduced from Friday, when France’s annual trêve hivernale, ends. But it will not be completely cut.

Late last year, energy supplier EDF committed to supply the equivalent of 1,000 watts to customers who have fallen behind on their bills – enough to permit ‘essential use’ for lighting, water heaters or washing machines, internet usage, phone charging, and refrigeration, but not enough to heat a home.

The operator said it had made the decision because of soaring energy prices.

READ ALSO EU countries reject French bid to regulate gas and electricity prices

“We are committed to supporting our customers in situations of unpaid bills by putting an end to the cutting of electricity supply,” announced Marc Benayoun, one of the group’s executive directors, said in an interview with Le Parisien.

Between November 1st and April 1st, energy suppliers in France are unable, by law, to cut supplies to any household. But once the truce period ends, EDF has confirmed that it will stick to the policy of not cutting customers off. 

Unlike water companies, which have been banned from cutting or reducing water supplies to a property no matter the financial situation of its customers since February 2014, they can still cut services to customers who have not paid their bill outside the trêve period. 

EDF’s supply reduction “will apply in all cases, unless there is a physical or technical impossibility to limit the strength of the power supply,” the company said in a statement in November 2021. 

It added that it already favoured limiting power to customers who had fallen behind on their payments to seeking to cut it entirely. This policy has reduced the number of cuts by a third in five years, it said.

READ ALSO France to relaunch construction of nuclear reactors, Macron announces

“We realised that we were getting almost as good results, in terms of regularising situations and repaying debts, using other means. And in particular the limitation of power,” Benayoun explained.

But each year, “between 200,000 and 300,000 households are deprived of electricity because they could not afford to pay,” national energy mediator, Olivier Challan-Belval, who had been calling on EDF to adopt reduction policies as standard, told France Info. “Today, electricity has really become a good that we can not do without.

“It is not acceptable, in a country like France, that households can find themselves in such a situation of precariousness and poverty,” he added.

Manuel Domergue, of the charitable Abbé Pierre Foundation, welcomed the news. “Millions of households in difficulty will no longer live with this sword of Damocles over their heads!” he said on Twitter.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

If you want to send Christmas presents to friends and family overseas you need to know the deadline dates and how to avoid being hit with extra charges - here's what you need to know.

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

Deadlines

First things first, you need to make sure your parcel arrives in time for Christmas, which means sending it before the deadline.

The French postal service La Poste has the following deadlines;

In Europe

If you’re sending a parcel within France, the deadline to have it delivered by Christmas is December 23rd. 

If you’re sending to the UK or Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spanish islands (eg Tenerife), Croatia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Portuguese islands (eg Madeira) or Romania you have until December 16th.

If you’re sending to Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Switzerland you have until December 17th.

If you’re sending to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Portugal you have until December 19th.

Outside Europe

If you’re sending to the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand or Hong Kong you have until December 10th. Likewise if you’re sending to most French overseas territories, the deadline is December 10th.

For most other countries the deadline is December 3rd, but you can find the full list here

Private couriers like Fed-Ex and DPD have their own deadlines, although they are broadly in line with La Poste, and if you’re buying online each company has its own deadline on when it can guarantee a Christmas delivery.

Fees and customs declarations

If you’re sending parcels to another EU country then it’s pretty straightforward – just pay the delivery cost (you can check how much it will be to send via La Poste here) and make sure you send it before the deadline.

If, however, you are sending to a country outside the EU (which of course now includes the UK) then you will need to fill out a customs declaration form explaining what is in your parcel and whether it is a gift or not.

In addition to standard postal charges, you may also need to pay customs duties, depending on the value or your parcel and whether it is a gift or not. 

Find full details on customs duty rules HERE.

Banned items

And there are some items that are banned from the post – if you’re sending parcels to the US be aware that you cannot send alcohol through the mail as a private individual, so don’t try a ship some nice French wine or a bottle of your local liqueur. 

Most countries ban firearms and fireworks, not unreasonably, although be aware that this includes items like sparklers.

Sending food and plants is also often restricted with countries including Canada and Australia having strict rules and most other countries imposing restrictions on what you can send.

This also applies the other way and France bans any foodstuffs containing animal products (eg chocolate) sent from outside the EU. 

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