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.
“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.
“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.
GRANDE NOUVELLE ! EDF renonce aux coupures d'électricité pour impayés, en réaction à la campagne de la Fondation @Abbe_Pierre pour l'abolition des coupures. Des millions de ménages en difficulté ne vivront plus avec cette épée de Damoclès au-dessus de leur tête ! pic.twitter.com/lrFZJL5Xil
— Manuel Domergue (@Manuel_Domergue) November 11, 2021