One of the few remaining truths in this, our world of 90 versions of truth per event, is that, under almost every stone online, there is a wriggling morass of dishonesty, cheating, evasion, incompetence and criminality. I have just discovered some things that bear all the hallmarks of this…..and surprise, surprise – they from energy suppliers.
For legal reasons at this stage, I can’t name the gas company; all I can tell you is that they are a prominent French supplier of domestic gas via bottles and underground tanks. In the days when I had tons of money, I invested in the latter. For all kinds of reasons, three years ago a bill I owed them went unpaid (it was sitting in my espace client, where I never went) and so now they demand an upfront deposit before they’ll supply me with refills.
The deposit they wanted – over €1600 – was far more gas than my tank holds, but being cold I went along with it. As so often happens with me these days, I then forgot all about it. I wintered quite a bit elsewhere, and so much of the gas sat there unused.
On returning from India two months ago, I checked the tank dial which showed only 15% of gas left. So I rang the supplier (infinitely quicker than going to yet another website designed by Jackson Pollock with a migraine) and was told OK, this time the deposit will be an eye-watering €2200….again, far more than the tank could take.
“Er, what’s the price per kilo?” I asked.
“We tell you that in the bill, sir,” said the lady, illogically.
I should explain that, in the classic tradition of Gallic privatisations, the gas supply sector in France is a cartel: you have to give your supplier a pint of blood, at least one of your children, and three months notice to quit via registered letter. But until you’ve done that and finished the notice period, none of the “competitors” will talk to you about, you know, deals, prices, contract levels and so forth.
The more cynical among you will guess what the results are. Anyway, these are the thoughts to hold at this stage: they don’t send physical bills, they don’t like a record of the price paid to be easily available, and they do everything in their power to avoid the inconvenience of an open, competititive market.
It was only when I’d transferred the cash this time, and taken delivery – without warning or communication (as promised) in advance – that I looked at the delivery note (again with no price per kilo) and remembered I still had the one from 2015.
But at least they sent me the bill via email. The key thing absent from it was any mention of what was going to happen to the €700 of extra bulah they were, um, going to hang onto.
So I wrote back asking several specific questions in relation to what rate I’d paid for the gas, what was going to happen to the unspent money, and what had happened to the excess deposit from 2015.
We’re now on the seventh exchange of emails (it usually requires another prompt for me to get a response at all), five weeks have passed, and so far the score is 2 answers, 2 evasions and 3 blind eyes in relation to the 2015 deposit.
What they have relented on is the upfront thing….in favour of a monthly standing order. But I’ve said great idea, however: no get answer on the 2015 issue, no sign mandate. So it’s a standoff.
Basically, it looks like they’ve been sitting on around €350 of mine for well over two years. And so far, they’re failing to admit that they’ve got it. Now, the longer this goes on – given the amount of clearly asked queries from me ignored by them – the more they’re going to look like a bunch of racketeers.
The case continues.
Let us now cross the road to the a privatised energy monopoly, Electricité de France – EDF or, as I call them, Endlessly Dumb Fatties. The main profiteering system at EDF is far more straightforward, in that the price they charge for electricity – and the misleading nature of the tariff system – ensure that the cheapest per therm production cost in the EU morphs into the highest consumer per therm bills in the EU.
But that clearly isn’t enough for the the Fatties, so they turn to planned incompetence and overcharge quite a lot. A survey done by the regulator three years ago showed a 13% rate of inaccuracy in EDF bills….spookily, always in their favour. [I have an English neighour here who last year spent a month simply trawling through all her household tariffs – gas, electricity, landline, mobile charges, internet, water and so forth – until she’d worked out the best tariffs, queried the sillier bills, and in one case threatened the supplier with legal action. In refunds and lower charges since, she has saved over €2,000.]
Anyway, because they can do what they like (and have no competitors) EDF tend to employ people whose species is doubtful and their IQ subterranean….which, added to putting everything online, produces the sort of incompetence for which we need another word. “Useless” doesn’t begin to cover it: I mean a new word, perhaps even one that changes the grammatical reference – for instance, “EDF is the inepteffectitudimost organisation I have ever dealt with”.
Yesterday provided all the evidence for this that a student doing a Masters in Stupidity would ever require. They sent me the following via email:
I don’t mind Sloggers seeing the size of my bill, because it’s part of the point I’m making: almost nothing in the main house works via electricity, and everything in the maison d’amis is switched off.
I’d like to see the consumption breakdown, but that’s in the espace client. I can’t get into the espace because my password “has expired”. It’s a new one on me: how and why would a password expire, and as it’s my password, who are they to declare it redundant?
The second option you can see there is by text to the mobile phone. But that link was broken. So I sighed the way you do, and requested an email to change my password. Three times. It never arrived. It’s not in social, public, spam or starred or in fact anywhere.
So I wrote them a foul email in reply. I am not holding my breath.