The chair of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has stated that there has been a significant reduction in the number of complaints regarding gas disconnections this month.

During Tuesday’s House of Keys sitting, Tim Glover MHK said that there had been a ‘downturn’ in the number of complaints and that the OFT continues to work closely with Isle of Man Energy to resolve any problems that arise.

In November 2023, the company disconnected the gas supply of 30 customers, and was set to disconnect a further 90 customers across the island who had fallen into arrears.

But following conversations with the OFT, the company agreed to a short pause in the disconnection programme over Christmas, as it reviewed each case individually.

However, the disconnection programme has restarted this month.

Mr Glover said: ‘The number of potential disconnections is possibly considerably lower than the reported number of 90 in the media last November.

‘It should be noted that we’re talking about the potential number of disconnections, and the number of actual disconnections should be lower.

‘For some context regarding complaints concerning billing issues, the number from gas customers in December was fewer than 10, while this month so far we’ve received only two overall.

‘The total since September 2022 stands at just under 650, so that gives you context that we did have a tsunami of complaints, but it is now coming right back down again.’

Legislation has recently been put in place to protect vulnerable customers from having their gas disconnected.

The Gas Regulation (Prevention of Disconnections) Order 2024 ensures that households with residents over pensionable age, children under six, or those eligible for Disability Living Allowance or War Disablement Pension, cannot have their gas cut off between October 1 and March 31 (the winter period) by a public gas supplier for non-payment of bills.

This order will go through the Tynwald affirmative resolution procedure in its February sitting, but it is effective immediately.

Talking about how the OFT can help vulnerable customers, Mr Glover said: ‘I would just like to re-emphasise that unless the OFT knows about an issue, we cannot help customers with it.

‘I would appeal to anybody who’s facing either notice of disconnection, or a threat of disconnection, to get in touch with the OFT in the very first place, so that we can offer to help.

‘If they feel like they fall into the vulnerable customer category as well, the OFT can help or assist them if this is the case or if they’re having difficulties.

‘The OFT would also be interested to hear from any customer who feels Isle of Man Energy have not adhered to the disconnection policy, which can be found on the company’s website.’