A Barcelona judge has left a worker and two partner lawyers from a company hired by Endesa to claim non-payments from clients, DPS Consulting, one step away from the bench for “pressuring” a vulnerable woman to pay an electricity debt. The main evidence of the case is the call made by the collector, posing as a court official, to demand payment of the debt from the woman and announce that if she did not pay, she would have her electricity cut off.
Agreement in Catalonia for Endesa to assume 50% of the energy poverty bill and a large part of the accumulated debt
An Endesa spokesperson explained that after learning of the events, the power company gave instructions so that they would not happen again and that DPS Consulting has cleared up responsibilities, so they continue to work with the firm. The DPS Consulting office, which on its website presents itself as a firm “specialized in the collection of unpaid debts”, has declined to give its version of the case, although judicial sources have explained that it has resorted to the order that leaves it on the edge of the bench.
In her resolution, the magistrate of the Investigating Court 5 of Barcelona closes the investigation and concludes that there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial. According to the judge, “pretending that it was a request from the court”, the accused worker demanded that the vulnerable woman correct the debt with Endesa “pressing her under the intimidation that if she did not make the payment her accounts would be blocked and power supply would be cut off.
The affected person, Yolanda, represented by the lawyer David Aranda of Arrels Advocats and with the support of the Alliance against Energy Poverty (APE), has already presented her indictment for three crimes: usurpation of public functions, coercion and attempted fraud . Together, four years and nine months in prison are claimed for the office worker and her two partners, in addition to a fine of 4,738.86 euros and compensation for moral damages of 1,000 euros.
According to the indictment, those responsible for DPS Consulting created a “special calls department” to claim payment of debts from the electric bill knowing that they were prescribed. They did it “by means of deception” consisting of pretending to be the service of notifications of the courts. The “script” of the call, maintains the writing, was provided to the worker by one of the partners of the firm.
In the call, the accusation abounds, “debtors were threatened with cutting off supplies and seizing any salary, checking account or any other income if payment of the alleged debt was not verified in a short period of time.” In the case of Yolanda, who recorded the conversation, the DPS Consulting worker made the call on July 3, 2020 to announce that if she did not proceed to pay a debt of 2,369.43 euros, the electricity would be cut off just five days later.
The conversation begins with the firm’s employee presenting herself as an official “of judicial notifications and embargoes from here in the court,” without specifying which one it is. She then tells Yolanda that she has “two court orders” and that she will give her a lawyer’s phone number because “she has a serious legal problem.”
The false official tells Yolanda that on July 8 all her accounts and income will be blocked and she will not be able to make “any withdrawal” of money, nor will she be charged the amounts of “mortgages, rents, loans or receipts”. “We are recording this conversation and it will be put here in court,” the interlocutor abounds in the face of the confusion expressed by Yolanda. “If you receive a pension, unemployment, aid or ERTE that leaves the State here, we are not going to enter it,” warns the worker.
The reason for blocking accounts, continues the defendant, is an alleged complaint by Endesa “for unpaid electricity bills” by Yolanda. “They are going to cut and seal the meter so that no company gives it light,” she adds. After giving her a phone number for a lawyer and Yolanda asking if she was from Endesa, the worker exclaims: “No, no Endesa, no, we are state officials.”
“This debt is solely yours,” reiterates the employee, to which Yolanda explains that she pays a social bond and that she has spoken with Endesa’s judicial department. “I don’t have the means to pay anything,” adds this vulnerable resident of Cubelles (Barcelona), to which her interlocutor replies: “We’re not calling you to pay, we’re calling you to report that the electricity is being cut off in your home, they block the accounts and their income and they put a judicial seal on the meter so that no company gives it light”.
Yolanda asks what she has to do to solve the situation. The worker replies that she must present “the payment document for the entirety” of the debt, which amounts to 2,369.43 euros. After Yolanda insists that she does not have money to cancel the debt, the employee reiterates: “I am not calling you to pay, I am telling you that if she wants to stop the procedure, she should call the lawyers, […] file the entire complaint [sic]send the payment document to the lawyers by fax so that they can send it to the court and we can paralyze the judicial procedure”.
“If you want to pay, pay, if not, don’t pay,” adds the now accused, who insists that she “will proceed” against Yolanda if she pays less than the amount due. “Keep it in mind,” she warns, to immediately recall that the invoices due are from 2015 and that the amount “should already be paid” five years later. “You have been notified, good afternoon,” she concludes.
The indictment states that Yolanda suffered anxiety after the call “because of the possibility of running out of financial resources and electricity” in the house where she lives with her minor son. Two days after the call, Yolanda contacted the citizen service office of the City of Justice of Barcelona, where they revealed to her that Endesa had not filed any lawsuit for non-payment and that there was no procedure against her, thus discovering the attempt of scam According to the private accusation, DPS Consulting tried to “hide” the deception before Endesa by filing the worker who made the call and suspending her employment and salary, despite also paying her in cash.
In a statement, the Alliance against Energy Poverty (APE) has denounced that Yolanda’s “is not an isolated case” but rather forms part “of a set of strategies deployed on a regular basis by electricity and gas suppliers.” The entity has also lamented that calls continue to be made to demand the collection of debts even after their cancellation due to the agreement signed between the Generalitat and Endesa last year.