Tulsi began challenging her energy supplier EDF last year, after she claims they disregarded her family’s vulnerable status. In this week’s Real Voices, Tulsi tells her story of standing up to a billion-pound energy corporation on her own without legal help, and how she has so far succeeded in refusing to pay more than what she feels is owed.
I have been challenging EDF since September 2022. I notified them of my family’s vulnerabilities which they subsequently disregarded, and they have tried to navigate ways to get more money from us. I’d made them aware that we wouldn’t be able to afford these payments, and that we certainly weren’t going to have a prepayment meter fitted. I’d also let them know that I had researched my rights around forceful installation of prepayment meters, and had looked up Ofgem’s rules and regulations.
In November 2022 I had an unannounced visit to my home from a company called MPAAS. They install prepayment and smart metres and were working on behalf of EDF.
They had a warrant of entry granted to them by Birmingham Magistrates Court, which is miles away from our home in rural East of England. At no point was I informed that they were applying for a warrant of entry to my house. I locked the door as soon as I realised who they were, and informed them that as they didn’t have the warrant in their hands (though they said they had it in their van) they had not exercised the warrant correctly, and considering I also hadn’t had seven days notice of their visit, the whole thing was illegal and the warrant was void.
They seemed confused, and I don’t think they meet people who actually know their rights very often. They tried to threaten me with calling the police, and I told them to go ahead. There’s nothing that the police could’ve done as there was not a crime being committed, I was simply informing them that due legal process had not been followed and for that reason they were not coming in.
Within ten minutes they had left. Since that point there have been many communications between myself and the operations manager of EDF. I have taken it upon myself to find the email addresses of some of the company bosses, and involve them as well. I emailed the person who deals with corporate legal affairs a lengthy response outlining my rights and vulnerabilities and informing him that I knew how much electricity costs the National Grid per home per year, and that I was not willing to pay more than that to boost shareholders’ profits.
I feel I am in a position to not only stand up for myself, but for others who are vulnerable. I have also maintained since I moved into my home to withhold my identity. There is nothing in a deemed contract which states I have to give them my legal name. This would also bring into question the legitimacy of a deemed contract, which the government created to allow utility companies to bind people to them. I’ve found a grey area, which several solicitors have told me they have never encountered before. One of them was laughing with me on the phone last week, and said I should just carry on with what I’m doing. She said she’d never seen anyone challenge a deemed contract in this way.
EDF are also saying that they refuse to give me financial assistance and grants, as part of Ofgem and the government’s support scheme. If they’re refusing to give me that support because I am not giving them my legal identification, then by their own admission they would be acknowledging that I’m not a consumer customer. Following my complaint, I am now waiting to have a decision from the energy ombudsman.
I’ve been my own lawyer throughout this process. If I’d been paying for a lawyer, it would have cost me thousands. I’m proud that I’ve managed to achieve quite significant success without legal advice. To do something like this before a judge would need someone with a lot of legal knowledge.
Ofgem’s regulations are there especially to protect the vulnerable, and these energy companies have been disregarding the rules. I want to be a voice for those who aren’t aware that there are ways they can say no to forced fittings of prepayment meters. If people can prove that they weren’t sent a notice of legal action i.e. an application to court, and if they have not been given the opportunity to defend themselves in court or to fill in an income & expenditure form to show what they could reasonably afford, they have the right to have the prepayment meter removed.
We live a very simple life in our cottage, and we’re passionate about maintaining our freedoms. Everyone in this country should have access to basic necessities, including nutritious food and warmth. At no point should this come at the cost of handing over all of your money to corporations. I just want people to know that there are ways around it.