The Office of Fair Trading has received ‘fewer than a dozen’ complaints over the last five years about internet prices, according to its chair.
Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse asked in the House of Keys on Tuesday when the OFT last assessed the charges to access the internet.
Chair John Wannenburgh MHK said the OFT has never carried out an investigation of internet charges.
‘The OFT has not been satisfied that prices are a major public concern given the limited number and nature of complaints it has received to date,’ he said.
Mr Moorhouse asked how the OFT would go about assessing the price of accessing the internet in the island, to which Mr Wannenburgh said it could speak to the Communications and Utilities Regulatory Authority (CURA).
He assured this wouldn’t mean anything would be carried out.
The MHK wished to know how many complaints it would take to trigger an investigation.
Mr Wannenburgh said: ‘We’ve had fewer than half a dozen complaints over the last five years.
‘The number of concerns should at least reflect public concern and that is simply not the case.’
He added that it was ‘very easy’ to make a complaint to the OFT.
This followed Mr Moorhouse telling Manx Radio that if internet isn’t free, it should be close to it.
He believes the internet is a basic requirement and expressed concerns that he was being charged up to 47p per minute to ring his doctor for advice.
Mr Moorhouse took to social media following the sitting, saying: ‘When answering the question, the chair’s key reason for ruling out the need to investigate pricing to access the internet is because people simply didn’t appear to have concerns.
‘Incredibly, the OFT has received fewer than half a dozen complaints concerning the price of accessing the internet during the last five years.
‘Recently, I asked if you would contact the Minister for the Department of Infrastructure to raise concerns about the suggested proposals for accessing Castletown using Bus Vannin.
‘That appears to have had an impact.’
He asked that the public continue to share their thoughts.
‘Potentially the OFT would be more prepared to carry out an investigation if you could say more than “it costs too much”,’ he added.
He said that his concerns related to pricing levels compared with the UK, the lack of a social tariff (the UK telecoms regulator enables for a reduced tariff for basic internet services for those on benefits), as part of your household income what the monthly internet access charge is, to assist with learning and reduce digital exclusion, and the ‘lack of availability of low level, basic access across the island for a minimal charge’.
Every week, an MHK writes a column for the Isle of Man Examiner.
On Tuesday it’s Mr Moorhouse’s turn.