Observation of the Mediation service:
The hotel was purchased in 2017 and was bankrupt at the time. The purchaser took over the business and all the contracts. They received regular billing from ENGIE. They did not realise that only the gas consumption was billed to them (since 2017) and not the electricity consumption. The supplier contacted the hotel in April 2019 to notify it of difficulties in producing the bills, without proposing a solution. In July 2020, the hotel terminated its contract with ENGIE, for gas and electricity. The problem with billing was resolved in October 2020 and at the end of October it received a batch of gas adjustment bills over three years: 2018, 2019 and 2020 (37 bills in total). Its accounts were already closed for 2018 and 2019. The total represented more than €100,000, and it was unable to pay this amount. Moreover, its financial position had deteriorated due to the health crisis.
The Mediation solution:
After receiving the 37 bills, for an amount of around €107,000, the customer disputed the amount and requested a reduction. The supplier proposed 20% and rescheduling, which did not appear to be sufficient for the customer. As part of the mediation process, and given the health environment, the supplier granted a 50% reduction.
It is not normal that the supplier did not inform its customer in 2017 of the difficulties it was experiencing with the production of its bills, which is a contractual obligation. Especially when the customer is a professional who is billed for large amounts and has to close its annual accounts. A solution should have been found with the customer that enabled them to book their bills that should have been due. The customer should have received support and traceability.
In the event of problems raising bills, to meet the contractual obligation on the one hand, and to avoid collection problems later on, the supplier should systematically inform their customer of the problem by several means, by telephone and in writing. If the situation continues, long-term support must be provided, with regular and direct contacts and traceability of the agreed actions and the amounts due.
Follow-up to the recommendation:
Since the overhaul of the DCP (Professional Customers Division) processes, following the implementation of a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management), customers are now contacted during back-office processing, whether this involves a request from customers or action related to feedback from the information system, which was not necessarily the case previously (excluding complaints handling).