“If a direct debit is denied, most telecommunications, energy and Internet operators add their own penalties to already high bank charges. Overcharging is not always justified.“highlighted Lionel Maugain, editor of the money, trade and housing section of the magazine 60 million consumers, who has just published an investigation titled: “Unpaid invoices, twice affected rates “, a file focused on electricity and telephone bills.
franceinfo: First observation, all providers use the same type of penalty, additional costs, in case of late payment. Is it a legal sanction?
Lionel Maugain: It is mostly contractual. When you sign your contract, you validate the penalties provided for in case of default. No one knows them when you sign. And yet they are not trivial. To give an example, the sanction to EDF, for each delay bill, is potentially 7.50 euros.
The same goes for Total Energy, the competitor, and the mobile phone providers, Bouygues or SFR. It can reach 10 euros, because 10 euros when the average telephone bill is 14.50 euros, is abusive, in our opinion. And we must not forget that this is added to the direct debit rejection commissions, which most often are billed at 20 euros each time.
As for electricity, there is a recent novelty, is that a supplier no longer has the right to cut off the power of an individual?
Yes, in any case, it is an EDF commitment. But the problem is that if you do not pay there is a technician who will limit the supply to 3000 watts, which really is not much. And I can tell you that it happens to several hundred thousand people every year, and even more so this year, because people have a hard time paying their bills. And you should know that these travel costs are charged to you. They are added to the unpaid bill and today are 54 euros.
And do these financial penalties vary greatly from one provider to another?
Yes, it can vary. For example, in Free, there is a penalty of one euro per day for late payment with a limit of 7.50 euros. At Orange Mobile, he prefers to demand a 400 euro deposit check. Also, in Orange, Internet access is suspended. But services continue to be billed, which also seems abusive. And you can, if you don’t pay in 7 days, find yourself on a list called a bad payer list. And that is harmful.
Why might this cause problems later?
Yes, because it is a list common to all telephone and internet operators and therefore they can consult this list and if you are there, they can refuse you a subscription or ask you for a deposit check.
Do you also mention in this file, anomalies in Free, telephone packages at 0 euros per month, but which nevertheless generate penalties equivalent to unpaid bills?
Yes, then an unpaid bill of 0 euros seems strange. But finally, there are bugs in Free, which means that there are people who have late fees when in principle they are at zero euros, as part of their full package. You can always try to contact the customer service of the operator, and failing that there is a mediator for each company, with whom you can contact to resolve the conflict without going in the courts.
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 propose friendly 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 resolve many conflicts without having to wait and go through a legal solution.
Normally, if you can’t find a solution to a crime problem, it’s not only there to find a solution, but it also informs the general public of everything that can be seen. Make recommendations to professionals. And if, unfortunately, this solution does not satisfy you, there will always be time to go to a judge later.