A NORTH Down MLA has accused a power company of ‘conning’ his elderly mother out of hundreds of pounds. Assemblyman Alex Easton has accused Electric Ireland of failing completely to deal with a near £1,000 estimated bill sent to his mother Ann four months ago.

 Mr Easton said he was horrified when his mum, who is in her 80s and ‘extremely frail’, received an estimated quarterly bill from Electric Ireland of £906, despite having sent in a meter reading. Mr Easton first contacted his parents’ electric suppliers last August and has spent four months trying to recoup the money he believes his parents have been overcharged, but to no avail.

The Stormont politician said his parents’ next quarterly bill was for £433.51 and he branded the company’s handling of their bill query a ‘disgrace’ after they refused to deal with him on a number of occasions. As he is not the account holder Mr Easton was told that due to the company’s data protection policy, the customer would need to contact them directly.

 Mr Easton explained both his parents are in their eighties. His mother is ‘extremely frail and elderly’, while his father Alex is bed bound. After months of trying to resolve the bill problem, Mr Easton said he was ‘disgusted’ by the company’s treatment of his family and he is considering lodging a complaint with the Consumer Council.

He said: “I am truly disgusted by Electric Ireland who sent a bill to my mother for £905.82, an estimated bill despite the exact electricity usage being sent to them. “The next quarterly bill was £433.51 and when I emailed Electric Ireland they refused to deal with me as my mother is the account holder despite me being her next of kin and also an elected representative.”

He said: “The problem is that my mother is elderly and not able to deal with these matters and I asked Electric Ireland to contact my father who is also unwell but they also refused to deal with both my father and me. “I have emailed Electric Ireland five times asking them to contact my father or myself to sort the bill out and for them to refund monies that Electric Ireland have overcharged my mother for an itimised bill for hundreds of pounds for their electricity. “It is an utter disgrace that Electric Ireland  won’t speak to me or my father as next of kin and it is disgusting attitude to have. I feel they have conned a vulnerable elderly woman out of hundreds of pounds for an estimated bill despite having been given the correct information.” “They should be ashamed of themselves and I certainly will be looking to change providers after such poor customer service from Electric Ireland. At a time of hardship right across the country, this is the way elderly people are being treated which is astonishing and very poor form.” 

An Electric Ireland spokesman said while the firm does not comment on individual customer accounts due to data protection, they are sorry to hear of the difficulties experienced in contacting Electric Ireland. “We are reviewing this case and we will make direct contact with the customer.,” he said. He added: “Electric Ireland aims to provide the best service possible to all of our customers. In particular, we are sensitive to the needs of those customers who require special services. For example, we provide a specific registration service those with special requirements.  “This is laid out in our Code of Practice and includes the option for any customer to nominate a friend, relative or carer to liaise with Electric Ireland on their behalf and receive their electricity bills if required.”