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Residents misled over power cut compensation'

PUBLISHED: 17:10 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 09:10 12 August 2010

AN ENERGY firm at the centre of one of the worst power blackouts to hit north Kent has been accused of deliberately misleading

AN ENERGY firm at the centre of one of the worst power blackouts to hit north Kent has been accused of "deliberately misleading" residents to avoid compensation payments.

Bexley council leader Teresa O'Neill slammed EDF Energy for its handling of "goodwill payments" affecting up to 90,000 residents and business owners across Orpington, Dartford and Bexley left without power for up to three days in July.

The three-month deadline to apply for compensation under industry rules overseen by regulator, Ofgem, has only days left.

Under the government watchdog's rules domestic customers maybe eligible for payments of £50 and non-domestic customers for payments of £100, if they were without electricity for more than 18 hours.

An additional £25 may be paid for every further 12 hours customers were without power.

EDF Energy insisted the payments are a goodwill gesture, only paying customers who experienced 24 continuous hours without power.

Mrs O'Neill said: "I'm annoyed because I believe people have been deliberately misled.

"EDF said at the public meeting in July that Ofgem had given them dispensation [from compensation rules] and that the only payments would be goodwill gestures.

"According to Ofgem this is not the case and a letter we received from the regulator looks like people could have claimed from its under-performance rules."

Some of the worst affected were people living in tower blocks in Slade Green as power cuts affected lifts and water supplies. The Red Cross dropped off bottled water to some residents.

Mrs O'Neill added: "People were led to believe that there would be no compensation payments. There is now only a small window left in which to claim."

For claims to be valid, customers whose power was restored on July 21 must submit their claim by October 21.

A spokeswoman for EDF Energy said: "We are sorry for any losses incurred during this interruption.

"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.

"Separately, Ofgem is carrying out a routine audit into our claim for the incident to be exempted from Ofgem's quality of supply incentive scheme.

"This is a normal part of Ofgem's processes following such a claim and separate to our treatment of the incident as exempt under the Guaranteed Standards of performance rules."

Police are investigating the cause of the blackout when a fire ripped through vital electricity cabling at a bridge over Dartford Creek.

Several thousand households and businesses in Bexley and Dartford boroughs are thought to be eligible for compensation. Claims must include full name and address, sent to: EDF Energy Networks, Dartford Payments Team, Fore Hamlet, Ipswich IP3 8AA.

According to Ofgem, their final report on the incident is expected by the end of October or early November.

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