The Gas Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2023 passed through both the House of Keys and the Legislative Council in a single day, on 19 December.
The Bill makes a key change in law to enable the Council of Ministers to make an Order (a separate form of legislation) to specify certain circumstances where a public gas supplier may not disconnect premises for non-payment of bills.
Any Order is likely to put similar safeguards in place as found in the UK and elsewhere, around disconnections during winter.
The Council of Ministers promoted the short bill following considerable concerns that vulnerable or at-risk gas customers were being disconnected, or are at risk of being disconnected, during the winter months.
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Kate Lord-Brennan MHK, said:
‘I am very grateful to my colleagues who supported this move, and for taking swift action towards providing some safeguards for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
‘Supporting this change means that we can now work quickly on an Order, which will address gas disconnections in winter months. This is particularly important for those domestic customers who, from a health and wellbeing perspective, having their source of heating cut off could pose a serious risk.’
Whilst Council of Ministers and the Office of Fair Trading are aware of the issues surrounding billing and payments, the message remains that where people are having any sort of difficulties with gas bills and making payments they should try to engage with Isle of Man Energy first to try and find a resolution.
People who may be struggling financially with their bills are encouraged to engage with the available support services:
- There is a debt counselling service offered by the Office of Fair Trading - email@example.com or freephone 0808 162 4080
- The cost of living support page provide advice and guidance on a range of issues
- There is also the Winter Help advice line on 686262, for anyone who prefers to speak to someone in person.
- The Social Security team at Markwell House are able to advise on benefits and pension support – 685656
The Bill will now be sent for Royal Assent, with the introduction of an Order expected early next year.