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OFT Seeks Manx Gas Assurance. 13 October 2003

Despite certain undertakings given following last week's meeting between the Office of Fair Trading and representatives from Manx Gas Ltd and Primeshade Ltd, the Office has continued to receive significant numbers of complaints from consumers affected by the natural gas conversion programme.

In view of this the Office of Fair Trading has taken the unprecedented step of seeking an "assurance" under the Fair Trading Act 1996 from Manx Gas Ltd. If the assurance is not given by the company or is subsequently breached the Attorney General may bring proceedings against the company before the High Court.

John Houghton MHK, Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading said, "This is the first time the Office has ever had to seek such an assurance and is indicative of how seriously we view the problems being experienced by consumers".

He went on to say that, "This action has not been taken lightly as we recognise the scale of the project being undertaken by Manx Gas Ltd but we simply cannot allow this problem to escalate out of control. Equally, we understand that the project cannot be halted at short notice and the assurance being sought will allow the company time to resolve many of the resource issues identified from analysis of the complaints."

The company has already indicated that there will be increased resources for its Post Conversion Unit and they will be improving the level of customer information provided before and after conversion. The structure of the Call Centre is also to be reviewed as it has come under severe pressure due to the number of calls being received leading consumers to claim that telephones are not being answered.

Mr Houghton said, "We welcome any improvements in customer service but the real test will be whether these improvements bear fruit and complaint numbers reduce dramatically. We have yet to see such improvements and the company must be in no doubt that we will use our powers to ensure that consumers are not treated unfairly or unacceptably inconvenienced."

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