An Isle of Man Energy customer says he feels he’s being ‘conned’ by the company after it changed its bills.
The company, formerly known as Manx Gas, has been issuing incorrect bills since it upgraded its billing system in October last year.
It has received a number of complaints from customers and, more recently, the chair of the Office of Fair Trading told Tynwald he would be prepared to take tougher action against Isle of Man Energy over the issue.
‘Now I’ve just had four through my door,’ the 73-year-old said, claiming it has made it more difficult to understand his financial situation.
‘You used to get a monthly bill but because the system wasn’t working, we seem to be getting three or four bills for the gas, which makes it a lot harder to follow how much I’ve actually paid.’
He is concerned for the elderly people in the island who will be receiving multiple gas bills.
Mr McLaughlan said: ‘It’ll just cause confusion and they won’t know what they’re doing.
‘The company said the situation had been rectified but she failed to mention people would be getting four bills at once.
‘I feel as if I’m getting conned by Isle of Man Energy because of the way the bills are set out.
‘It’s difficult to determine how much you’re paying towards your gas bills.
‘We had quite a cold spell just before Christmas so everyone’s been putting their central heating on, and now they’re getting four bills.
‘I’m concerned about elderly people in the island, especially if the same thing’s happening to them. I don’t want them getting confused.’
Chief executive Jo Cox said that the upgrade to the company’s billing system was intended to make it easier for customers to understand their bills and manage their accounts.
Mr McLaughlan added: ‘She said that because they’ve introduced the new computer system, the bills would be easier to read for customers.
‘They’re actually worse. I can’t make head nor tail of it.
‘Usually I’m quite savvy with this stuff but this has caught me.
‘If they set the bills out exactly the same way as electricity bills are set out then it would be a lot easier to follow.’
Customers are being told to contact Isle of Man Energy if they are struggling with their gas bills.
However, when seeking help and advice, Mr McLaughlan has struggled to get through to anyone at customer service.
He said: ‘Every time you call you just get a recorded message saying the high amount of calls they’re receiving means you need to hold the line or try again later.
‘It seems to be that they don’t have enough people answering the phones for customer support.
‘You can’t get through to them. One of my friends has been trying for over a week and he still can’t get through.’
In January’s Tynwald sitting, OFT chair John Wannenburgh was asked if there were enough resources to cope with ‘the level of service failure for what is a monopoly supplier causing an unacceptable level of distress’.
Mr Wannenburgh said: ‘The OFT certainly does have. It is questionable as to whether the company has the resources.’
Meanwhile, Isle of Man Energy has explained that while billing issues had been ‘resolved’, there is a backlog of complaints that needs to be cleared. It said this would be resolved in a timely manner.
An Isle of Man Energy spokesperson said in response: ‘Following the problems experienced with our new billing system, and the ensuing issues for which Isle of Man Energy once again apologises, we regret that there were a number of customers who received several historical bills at once earlier in January.
‘That system error has now been fixed, but it resulted in a backlog of customer queries.
‘A letter was sent directly to each of those particular customers apologising for, and explaining, that issue.
‘Following receipt of the letter, those customers were invited to contact us via our website.
‘If they usually pay by variable direct debit they were given a specific code to quote in order that their enquiry could be speedily identified by our team.’
They added that Isle of Man Energy invites any customer who received that letter to get in touch via the enquiry form on its website, quoting any code if provided.
‘We will of course be happy to help customers with a payment plan to spread the cost of any bill backlog,’ they said.