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Water firms illegally cut water supplies to customers

Two companies ordered to pay damages after being found guilty of reducing flows to customers struggling to pay their bills

Two water companies have been ordered to pay a total of €13,000 to two customers who had been struggling to pay their bills after being found guilty of illegally reducing their water supplies.

Water companies have been banned from cutting the supply of water to a property, no matter the financial situation of its customers since the Loi Brottes came into force in February 2014. In previous cases, courts have interpreted the law to include reductions in supply.

Veolia was ordered to pay €4,000 to a customer in Hénin-Beaumont, Pas-de-Calais, who was receiving RSA payments and was struggling to keep up with their water bill. The company installed a lens in the pipe supplying the customer's water, reducing the supply to the property to a trickle. The lens was in place for 88 days, which meant the customer was unable to have a shower, operate a washing machine or use his own toilet properly.

Saur, meanwhile, has been ordered to pay €9,000 to a woman in Perpignan, whose supply it had cut to a trickle for 14 months over unpaid bills. The tribunal de grande instance de Nanterre was told that the water supply to the woman's home was severely reduced even though negotiations were under way to settle the bill as part of a negotiated repayment scheme.

The two court cases were supported by the Fondation France Libertés and the Coordination eau Île-de-France, who argued that reducing water flow to 'prevent normal use … is tantamount to interrupting the water supply'. It has, they said, an 'evident impact on dignity'.

"It is high time that the multinationals ... cease these practices ... We will continue as much as necessary to prosecute multinational water companies for their illegal actions," Emmanuel Poilane, of Fondation France Libertés, said.

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