The date was feared by hundreds of thousands of electricity subscribers. Since June 1, after an extension of two months, the winter break has ended. If it signs the return of evictions for unpaid rent, it also offers energy suppliers the possibility of resorting again to power cuts or reductions when gas or electricity bills have not been paid.
“With the economic crisis, we unfortunately fear an explosion of these cuts in the weeks to come, warns Frédérique Feriaud, director general of the services of the energy mediator (MNE). Especially since some suppliers have a heavy hand, even for small amounts. “After two years of consecutive increases, their number had fallen by 18% in 2020.” A trend in trompe-l’oeil, still believes the general manager. The public authorities had already extended the winter break in 2020, until July 10. Consumers in difficulty have been given a little more protection, in fact artificially skewing the statistics, but only for a short time. “
“Do not wait to react”
The economy was then on a drip thanks to state aid, but, with the gradual deconfinement, the landing is likely to be tough for many French people. “Suppliers alert us to the number of unpaid bills they are already facing,” resumes Frédérique Feriaud. And this while the truce has barely ended. It is a worrying situation. “
Some, like Leonard (the first name has been changed), have already paid the price. “When I woke up on the morning of June 2, I had no more electricity,” says this 42-year-old Parisian. However, I thought that my supplier would show a little patience. “Bartender and waiter, in restaurants or festivals, Leonard has indeed been unemployed for more than a year, due to successive confinements. He goes around in circles in his small studio and owes his supplier, Total Direct Energie, 581 euros.
“The first rule when you encounter difficulties is not to wait to react, advises Frédérique Feriaud. If your supplier sends you reminders, contact them right away. By asking for a payment schedule, for example. Because once the gas or electricity is cut off, all the procedures become more difficult. And above all more expensive. It is not easy, we are sometimes a little ashamed, but we must not. The services of the mediator in fact report appeals from a new category of the population. “People strongly impacted by this crisis, and who find themselves in difficulty for the first time,” specifies the general manager. They are not used to it. “
Suppliers already singled out
This is particularly the case with Leonard. On May 31, he received a new email reminding him of the end of the truce. Taken by “panic”, he sends a first payment of 60 euros by credit card. This does not prevent it from being cut the next day. He then calls customer service who asks him to make another effort. “By counting the energy check, and after multiple payments, I managed to reduce the debt to 77 euros, he explains. But there, they changed their minds, explaining to me that the contract had been terminated anyway. To be reconnected, I had to reimburse the full amount and post a deposit of 300 euros. So they took me on a boat so that I pay the maximum. These are rogue methods. “
Contacted by our newspaper, Total Direct Energie highlights its desire, through a dedicated unit, to support all its customers in difficulty. “It happens at least six weeks before we trigger anything, justifies the management of the group. Period during which we send multiple alerts in order to propose solutions. “The supplier was however singled out a few months ago, along with three other competitors (Engie, Eni and ekWateur), for having cut during the winter break.
Shortly, awaiting the monthly payment of 480 euros of his RSA, Leonard was able, thanks to the help of the mediator, to sign a new contract with another supplier. The reopening of bars and restaurants now gives him hope of finding a job. And to finally be able to repay your debt.