A LEGAL firm has agreed to act on behalf of nearly 250 Island Energy customers after concluding that the “insulting” compensation payment following an Island-wide gas outage presents a “clear breach of contract”.
Advocate Philip Sinel has agreed to work with the Jersey Consumer Council to “recover losses for consumers”.
Around 4,000 customers were left without gas for up to two weeks in October when a technical fault caused the supply to shut off.
The council last week launched a survey to gather evidence “with a view to taking action” which has so far garnered 248 responses.
In emotional testimonies, pensioners said it was “frightening” that those without access to social media were left “in the dark”, while families with specific needs described it as “really stressful” and “uncomfortable”.
Others called for an independent regulator or ombudsman to be involved, while one wrote: “It is hard to put a cost to the disruption faced by my family during the 13 days’ outage.”
Islanders reacted with anger when told in January that they would be credited £11.56 to compensate for the temporary lack of supply.
Islands Energy Group chief executive Jo Cox defended the gas company’s “goodwill gesture”, saying that there was “no requirement for energy companies in Jersey to have pre-agreed compensation schemes in place” and that the fault was not covered by its insurance.
In a comment provided to the JEP, Advocate Sinel, senior partner at Sinel and Co, said: “Sinels is happy to act on behalf of those consumers affected by last year’s gas outage as, in our view, there has been a clear breach of contract.
“Losses have occurred, and as a result, the supplier should be liable for those in our view, and we will do our best to recover those losses for consumers.”
Consumer Council chair Carl Walker said he was “delighted” that Advocate Sinel had agreed to work with the council “to try to strike a fairer deal with Island Energy”. He added: “Both Advocate Sinel and the Consumer Council believe Islanders should be able to recover the extra costs they incurred to cope with the gas outage last year and we will do our best to achieve that using the appropriate means.”
He encouraged unhappy gas customers to continue to register with them via consumercouncil.je.
In response to Advocate Sinel’s claims, Island Energy said: “We would like to apologise once again to our customers for the disruption to the supply of gas in Jersey and thank them for bearing with us while we worked to restore supply and while we conducted our review.
“There is no pre-agreed system in place for energy companies to provide compensation. It is not a requirement of doing business in Jersey. We have therefore started from scratch to review the outage, our customers’ contracts and what we can feasibly do to make a payment without generating excess costs to our business – as these would ultimately be passed on to our customers.
“Businesses are very different to domestic customers and have been assessed separately. Most of our business customers will have engaged with their insurers as this type of disruption will usually be covered to a greater degree by their policies than we could ever offer as compensation. This is therefore the route most will have gone down.”