Two MHKs have expressed disappointment in Isle of Man Energy permanently closing its reception to customers this week.

The firm, formerly known as Manx Gas, said the decision to close their reception at Murdoch House on South Quay in Douglas was made due to the fact that ‘most customers now prefer online customer service interactions to face-to-face ones’.

Sarah Maltby, MHK for Douglas South, said the statement from the firm ‘acknowledges that not all customers will be satisfied with this decision’ and asked a written question to the now former chairman of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Mr Wannenburgh about complaints to the company.

It was announced this week that Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Tim Glover will replace Mr Wannenburgh as chair of the Office of Fair Trading, subject to Tynwald approval.

The question asked about the number of vulnerable customers contacting the office since April 2023 who have been unable to pay their substantive gas bill; have been unable to pay charges applied to their gas account as a result of late payment or have had their gas supply cut off due to missed payments?

Mr Wannenburgh’s response included that ‘the OFT has received just over 300 complaints concerning gas billing issues since April 1 2023, with 18 of the complainants recorded on the OFT’s database as vulnerable’.

A complainant is regarded as ‘vulnerable’ based on a telephone conversation, home visit or on information received from an MHK or concerned relative.

He added that ‘as far as the OFT is aware, Isle of Man Energy does not apply charges to customer accounts as a result of late payments’, and that ‘of the just over 300 complaints concerning gas billing issues received by the OFT since April 1, 2023, 10 related to customers either having had their gas supply cut off, or being advised by Isle of Man Energy that it would be cut off if the amount they ostensibly owed remained unpaid’.

Mrs Maltby told the Manx Independent that she is ‘very disappointed’ regarding the closure of the reception, and has asked a number of questions to the company regarding the counter services operators and customer service telephones.

She has informed us since then that Aidan Baglow, Isle of Man Energy managing director, has been in touch with her and she is expecting responses to her questions.

Mrs Maltby said: ‘I was very disappointed to learn that IOM Energy will be closing their counter service permanently and did not trial a reduction in opening hours as a reasonable adjustment in the first instance.

‘I have constituents who choose not to be digitally enabled for various reasons and given the recent difficulties with billing the decision to take away an option for customers to speak to someone seems very insensitively timed.

‘I have received complaints from constituents that they can often be waiting a long time for their call to be answered and the decision to remove a counter service may exacerbate this situation.’

Ann Corlett, MHK for Douglas Central, said: ‘While businesses must be free to make their own decisions, I do feel that there has been a lack of consultation and engagement on the decision to take away face-to-face services from consumers.

‘With all that has happened over the last 12 months or so, I feel that the priority should be more engagement with consumers, not less, especially at a time when there should be a focus on rebuilding consumer confidence.

‘This just adds to the concerns I have over the quality of customer care and consumer protection and it is something that I intend to address in legislation which will be brought forward in the near future on behalf of my colleagues in the Communications and Utilities Regulatory Authority (CURA).’