Isle of Tiree too remote, claims energy firm

Inner Hebridean island of Tiree 'unreachable' by energy company representatives. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Inner Hebridean island of Tiree 'unreachable' by energy company representatives. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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AN ENERGY company refused to visit a sick pensioner to investigate his soaring electricity bills because he lives on a Hebridean island.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) caused outrage last winter by announcing – just a month after increasing bills by 9 per cent – that its profits had soared almost 40 per cent, to £398 million. The company’s former chief executive Ian Marchant received an extra £1m in his pay packet in March, despite having indicated his intention to resign.

But SSE staff based in Hampshire told John MacLean, 65, who suffers from a catalogue of illnesses, that they had no customer service officers to cover the isle of Tiree.

Mr MacLean, 65, complained when his quarterly bill soared from £100 to over £800 in December, fearing he was on the wrong tariff after getting new storage heaters installed. The pensioner was told by Scottish Hydro, part of the SSE group, to continue paying his usual £100, plus £15 extra a month, until the matter was resolved.

But eight months later, the worried pensioner has turned most of his heating off after being told the outstanding amount he owes is now over £1,200.

Mr MacLean, 65, asked his landlord, Argyll Community Housing Association, to change his coal fire for storage heaters to make life easier. He said: “My heating was changed because I am not a well person. I have had cancer three times and then I had a heart attack and I have angina. I take 20 tablets a day and that’s why the new heating was put in, to make things easier.”

But he added: “Before, I was paying £90 or £100 a quarter for electricity, it was never very high, but after the new heating was fitted my first bill was £847. Now they have sent me another bill showing the total for December 7 to July 29 as £1,281. It’s a terrible situation altogether.

“The bill is so extortionate that I have turned the storage heaters off and I am now using a wee plug-in heater to keep warm.”

Argyll and Bute councillor Fred Hall wrote to SSE pressing for someone to visit Mr MacLean’s home to resolve the issue.

Jade Tisson, an SSE customer service manager based in Hampshire – 426 miles from Oban, the ferry point to Tiree – replied: “The reason we have not requested a home visit for Mr MacLean is because our community liaison officers do not work in Mr 
MacLean’s area. We are trying to expand our community liaison officers, and hope to employ more staff to cover all areas. I am very sorry but at this time they are not located in the area.”

Councillor Hall said: “The explanation that they have no representatives in the area, so cannot send a representative to get to the bottom of this issue, is in my opinion one of the most lame excuses I have ever heard.”

An SSE spokesperson said: “We would firstly like to apologise for the delay in resolving Mr MacLean’s concerns with his bills. The time it has taken has not been in line with our usual high standards of service. However, we are committed to resolving this matter to Mr MacLean’s full satisfaction as quickly as possible.”