Accueil MSH-Alpes


Comprehensive analysis of the social mediation offer proposed by Pimms on problems of unpaid electricity bills – Inquiry at the Lyon Pimms Pimms (Point Information Médiation Multi Services): agency for multi-service mediation and information.Français

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Author :

P. Mazet
Grenoble, Odenore, December 2009

Collection :

Study n°34

Language :


Addressee(s) : EDF and Union des PIMMS



Methods : Face-to-face semi-structured interviews and observation.

Scale : The city of Lyon and surrounding areas.

Main results : Pimms are neighbourhood agencies set up on the initiative of several public utilities: EDF/GDF (electricity and gas), France Telecom, la Poste, SNCF (railways), Keolis (road transport), Veolia (water), etc. They serve as a host for multiple services and mediation, on behalf of their partner firms. In this study we analyse the mediation offer provided on behalf of EDF, on the problem of unpaid electricity bills. The Lyon Pimms have the particular characteristic of offering "outgoing" mediation, i.e. they establish contact with EDF customers (by telephone or by visiting their homes) who have defaulted on payment of their electricity bills and who fall into EDF's "impoverished customer" category.
Interviews and research findings highlight a number of points in this type of mediation. First, it concerns a problem of unpaid bills and is not sought by the people contacted. The initial reason for the contact immediately puts the Pimms agents into a context where their intervention is seen as debt-collection. People who have not asked for anything are contacted by Pimms agents with whom they are not necessarily acquainted, about a problem of an electricity bill, without having agreed to their phone number and personal situation being divulged. The agents' proposed mediation therefore consists first in gaining acceptance for this concrete and symbolic intrusion into the person's private space. To "restore contact with the customer" –one of the objectives of this outgoing mediation – it is above all essential to ensure that the contact is accepted; in other words, to transcend the effect of context.
In spite of this framework which seems to be unsuited to successful interaction, in half of all cases the agents are able to enter into contact with the people and act as mediators. Yet accepting this type of contact cannot be taken for granted. Why and how people "take up" the proposed mediation offer, and what the conditions of felicity of this specific interaction are, are questions that warrant more in-depth analysis.