Analysis of the difficulties accessing water encountered by households in arrears on their water bills in France


Analysis of the difficulties accessing water encountered by households in arrears on their water bills and perceptions of the quality of the water companies’ management of these households in France

Based on complaints registered on the Coordination Eau Ile de France and Fondation France Libertés water supply disconnections and disconnection threats complaints platform over the period 2014 to March 2017.

February 2018


1. The composition and type of sample studied, and the study objectives

The sample studied comprises 1,173 households in arrears on their water bills from 779 communes 1 (or municipalities), inside and outside mainland France, who submitted complaints of threats and water disconnections to a special platform set up by two NGOs campaigning to uphold the right to water. Statistically, as this sample of households in arrears was obtained from self-reporting, and as no information on the characteristics of the parent population is available, no inferences can be made on the statistical representativeness of the analysis results. What we have is a ‘sub-sample’ of households in arrears, who are in difficult socio-economic circumstances and whose cases could not be resolved using the water companies’ usual reminders procedures, and this has led to them being threatened with disconnection or having their water cut-off.

Nevertheless, the size of the sub-sample is large enough to enable relevant qualitative and analytical lessons to be drawn.

The study had several objectives. The primary aim for the NGOs was to use the information collected to answer a range of questions relating to the scale of the water disconnections listed, water companies’ practices for dealing with customers in arrears and their compliance with the legal requirement to maintain these customers’ water supply. The aim was also to map water companies based on an analysis of their water supply disconnection practices.

The analysis of the empirical data collected through this platform has also informed UMR GESTE’s research on the right to water, being used to examine and define the difficulties encountered by poor households in accessing water services, the socio-economic profile and composition of these households in arrears, as well as the way in which these households are dealt with and managed by the water companies.

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