DEFENCE OF THE CONSUMER. One year after the entry into force of the prohibition of catch-up billing going back more than 14 months of consumption, the national ombudsman of energy notes that the law is still not respected by the suppliers. An abnormal situation that penalizes some customers.
In August 2016, the national ombudsman of energy welcomed the entry into force of the limitation of catch-up billing of electricity and gas to 14 months of consumption (item L. 224-11 of the code of the consumption) for negligence attributable to the operators themselves (meter readings not performed, or the invoices issued with delay). Yet, a year later, nothing has really changed. If the suppliers of electricity and gas have taken some provisions, such as sending a registered letter to request consumer access to the meter or the realization of a self-statement, the disputes persist. For the ombudsman, “the operators do not always respect this prohibition” and “number of consumers continue to adjust these rear-end collisions of more than 14 months without any challenge because they are often unaware of their rights or the steps to perform”. The disputes concern issues identified, adjustments and billings are late or index is not taken into account.
Recall the law for energy providers
Jean Gaubert was, therefore, issued a communiqué in which he declared : “The prohibition of catch-up billing for more than 14 months has been intended by the legislator in order to avoid consumers having to pay bills, catch-up, which can amount to several thousands of euros, putting them in financial difficulty“. In fact, in 2015, before that measure is taken, the ombudsman was seized of the litigation which in the average amounts were of 3,600 euros. It, therefore, puts a warning to energy suppliers in relation to the persistence of an abnormal situation and reminds them of their obligations : they must, in particular, arrangements are put in place automatic correction of the bills before issue. Jean Gaubert says : “(…) I would like to remind all players in the sector, it is essential that the law be applied“.
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This kind of retroactive adjustment does not, however, correspond to rear-end collisions occurred at the beginning of 2015 and spring of 2017, for EDF customers who had received a courier to the effect that they had received a contract for electricity at Blue Tariff, in which the level of evolution of the regulated tariffs had been deemed inadequate by the State Council. A fix had been decided for periods ranging from 2012 to 2013 and from August 2014 to July 2015, leading to an increase of the invoice usual in the amount of thirty euros on average. A much smaller amount than those at stake in the disputes that are brought to the attention of the ombudsman. Consumers did not, however, enjoyed the process, although legal, but unfair.