Energy firms still issue illegal bills, says regulator

Electricity and natural gas companies in France are still issuing illegal bills over the 14-month backdating limit, the national regulator for energy has found.

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According to current rules, which were introduced one year ago, companies are only allowed to issue retrospective bills for charges covering anytime up to the previous 14 months, and no longer.

However, the regulator has found that companies are still regularly sending out bills that contravene this time limit, blaming distributors, ineffective readings, and bills sent late or not sent out at all by the energy providers for the delays.

Despite most companies conceding to change their bills once the regulator becomes involved, some consumers have reported that they are continuing to receive retrospective demands for longer periods than the previous 14 months.

Many consumers do not even report such illegal bills, the regulator has said, due to a lack of knowledge about their rights or of any effective channels to complain.

In 2015, even bills that did reach the legal process amounted to an average of 3 600 euros, with an average backdated time period of 25 months.

“Faced with this abnormal situation, it is imperative that providers and distributors put in place measures that will automatically correct these bills before they are sent out,” said the regulator in a statement to French newspaper Le Figaro.

For the 14-month legal limit to apply, consumers must have allowed the operator required access to check the relevant meter reading in the time period concerned. If they were not able to do so, the consumer must have sent regular readings of their consumption to their energy company over the 14-month period instead.