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Stop bending over backwards for EDF’

PUBLISHED: 13:50 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:17 25 August 2010

AN MP has called on the government to scrap a system that could mean thousands of residents affected by a three day power cut will never receive compensation. Homeowners in Dartford, Orpington, Erith, Bexleyheath and Crayford were left without power in J

AN MP has called on the government to scrap a system that could mean thousands of residents affected by a three day power cut will never receive compensation.

Homeowners in Dartford, Orpington, Erith, Bexleyheath and Crayford were left without power in July after an arson attack on an electricity substation.

During a government debate in the House of Commons on October 20, Energy Minister David Kidney said the power company EDF had applied for an exemption to pay any compensation to customers, and that there was nothing the government could do to fight the application.

The Guaranteed Standards of Performance Regulations allow electricity companies to apply for this exemption if a power interruption was caused by factors beyond their control.

Dr Howard Stoate, MP for Dartford who raised the issue in the House of Commons, said the current system "bends over backwards to be fair to power companies"

He said: "It is not fair to penalise customers for events beyond their control leading to power cuts that have caused them great inconvenience, loss and hardship.

"Rather than bending over backwards to be fair to the power companies, we should remember that our first responsibility is towards ordinary customers in ensuring that they are treated fairly.

"Having seen the hardship caused to my constituents by these power cuts, I should like the exemptions to the guaranteed standards system to be scrapped altogether and full compensation to be paid to every customer who applies for it."

The fire on a cable bridge over Dartford Creek damaged four major electricity circuits on July 20, affecting nearly 100,000 homes and businesses.

So far EDF has offered a goodwill payment of £50, but only to properties left without power for more than 24 hours.

Mr Kidney said unhappy residents should contact the energy ombudsman to take any complaint further and said he would look closely into the regulations in the future.

He told MPs: "The regulations would provide larger payments to more customers if the exemption did not apply.

"EDF certainly did not consult me on whether it should claim an exemption. I have asked whether I can object to it claiming an exemption, but apparently the regulations do not provide for that."

A spokesperson for EDF said: "In terms of offering a goodwill payment to the worst affected customers, we discussed our proposed approach with OFGEM at the time and they understood and noted our position.

"In our view this incident was clearly exempt from the normal guaranteed standards of service."

OFGEM is looking into EDF's application for the exemption and is due to publish its findings early next month.


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