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Power company should pay off blackout victims'

PUBLISHED: 12:04 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:00 25 August 2010

ANGRY: Jackie Riches and her mum Joan.

ANGRY: Jackie Riches and her mum Joan.

A WOMAN who lives with her elderly mother slammed an energy firm at the centre of a major power blackout, demanding that customers

A WOMAN who lives with her elderly mother slammed an energy firm at the centre of a major power blackout, demanding that customers get a slice of a £2 million fine imposed by the industry's watchdog.

Jackie Riches and her 82-year-old mother Joan Riches, of Frinsted Road, Erith, were left in the lurch for three days "without warning" after the sabotage of a Dartford sub-station forced EDF Energy to shut down power to nearly 100,000 homes.

Mrs Riches and her mum, whose home is entirely dependent on electricity, ate jelly and sandwiches for three days last week.

She wants customers to get a share of the fine imposed by regulator Ofgem last Friday after its customer service was found to be less than satisfactory.

The fine came days before EDF offered customers affected by the blackout a 'goodwill gesture' of £50.

Mrs Riches said: "EDF knew they had a serious problem before they switched the power off.

"They could have warned people over the television or through radio that the power might be switched off.

"At least then residents could have been prepared for the worst. My mother relies on a stair lift to get up and down.

"It's only by pure chance that the back up batteries lasted long enough, otherwise my poor mum could have been stuck.

"We rely totally on electricity, we haven't had cooked food or hot drinks for three days. It's a good job this happened in summer and not in the depths of winter.

"EDF have to prepare better. I would like to get hold of the culprits who sabotaged the power, but EDF have got some serious questions to answer too. I think we should get some of the fine that they have to pay, it's only fair."

One of Ofgem's concerns was the back-stop licence requirement of three months needed before an energy firm makes a connection offer.

Ofgem claims that EDF received a warning in 2006 for not meeting this deadline and subsequently ignored over 100 notices telling it to improve.

A spokesman for EDF said: "EDF Energy Networks did not receive warning before supplies were interrupted to our customers by criminal damage. As such, it was not possible to warn our customers in advance.

"We're sorry if some customers had problems contacting us via our power cut helpline.

"We do recognise that with so many customers off supply there could be a delay in speaking to one of our agents.

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