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Problems with Natural Gas Conversion 3 October 2003

Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading, John Houghton MHK has responded to recent comments made on Manx Radio by Jim Deacons, Natural Gas Conversion Manager for Manx Gas Ltd.

Mr Deacons had said the conversion program was going to schedule and they were now in the 21st of 59 sectors. He also said that no-one had been left without cooking facilities although he did admit that they had only converted about 25% of cookers.

John Houghton said that he had personally received numerous complaints from consumers and was aware of complaints being received by the Office of Fair Trading. Many of those received concerned cookers and the fact that consumers had been left without cooking facilities in some cases for several weeks.

He had received further similar complaints since the radio broadcast, from consumers who felt that Manx Gas were simply "glossing over" all the complaints and the fact that many consumers had been left without appliances.

He went on to say, "In my experience the conversion engineers have managed to keep on schedule by only undertaking the conversion of appliances that presented no difficulties. Once a problem arose they appeared to simply move on to the next property leaving a trail of devastation behind them. Perhaps worse than this, is the fact that they are reluctant to respond to calls from consumers and I know in some cases as many as 14 calls have been made without a response."

He said, "I am now calling upon Manx Gas to implement a corrective action strategy that ensures outstanding complaints are resolved before the conversion engineers are allowed to move on to the next sector. If this is not undertaken then I fear the problems will only "snowball" and consumers will be left without cooking or heating appliances for longer periods as we approach the depth of winter."

To highlight the type of complaint being received by the OFT the following case studies have been provided but he stressed that he was aware of other politicians who had received over 50 similar complaints.

An elderly couple who live in Onchan have been without a cooker for a week and have been unable to speak to anyone from MG or Primeshade on the telephone. They have been resorting to flagging down Primeshade vans in the street and asking the drivers to log details of their problems. The drivers said they would but the couple have still heard nothing.

Their daughter has sent her parents to Ireland on holiday whilst it gets sorted out as it was causing them so much worry and she was so incensed when she heard Jim Deacons on Manx Radio this morning that she has e-mailed Andy Wint!

A gentleman from Tromode who was converted to natural gas on day 1 of the conversion schedule (18th August) is still without his fire. His first contact from the company was on 26/9 when he spoke to an engineer who said he would refer the problem to his manager. He still hasn't heard anything.

A woman from Onchan who had her cooker disconnected on 21st September has had no contact from Primeshade or Manx Gas since. She has a young family and is currently cooking for them on a Primus stove.

Another Onchan woman who had her gas hob disconnected on 23/9 also found that the Primeshade engineers had disconnected her electric oven. She has been unable to reconnect the oven as there is a loose gas pipe behind it. She hasn't heard anything from either company.

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