Published: 06:00, 07 April 2021
A milk delivery firm has been accused of abandoning elderly and vulnerable customers, after it announced plans to become an online-only service.
Retired engineering instructor Patrick Clements, 93, has had his milk delivered to his Snodland home for 60 years, but, like many other Milk & More customers, received a letter saying that if he wants his deliveries to continue after April 24, he must set up an online account.
However, Milk & More say the move will protect the jobs of hundreds of employees and suppliers and delayed the change for as long as possible.
Mr Clements has macular degeneration (AMD), which impacts his eye sight and makes it difficult for him to use a computer or iPad.
The widower, who previously paid by direct debit and would ring up the company to cancel his order if he was going away or on holiday, said: "I'm one of those dinosaurs that still has milk delivered, it costs me more money but on the other hand I don't have to carry it down the street from the shops."
Jane Wan, Mr Clements' daughter says her father still lives independently, going to the shops and gardening, but she is worried about how Milk & More's move will effect the vulnerable and those less independent than her father, who don't have relatives or friends that set up the online account, or do shopping for them.
Mrs Wan, who worked in social housing for 13 years, assessing residents for disability equipment and getting the equipment installed, said: "There are loads of people out there who don't leave their house.
"I remember one lady couldn't understand what computers and the internet were, she wasn't an unintelligent woman, it was just beyond her realm of understanding.
"Loads of people have their milk delivered, they aren't capable of getting online and may not have a neighbour, friend or relatives that could do this for them."
"I feel they have abandoned the elderly and vulnerable."
Pauline Hunt, 88, who lives near Mr Clements, also received a letter from Milk & More.
Mrs Hunt, who doesn't have a computer, said: "After 66 years of milk deliveries, I felt annoyed. I just felt hurt by the whole thing really."
Mrs Hunt's daughter will now buy the milk, as the pints are too heavy for her to carry.
'I just felt hurt by the whole thing...'
The delivery company was bought by German dairy firm Müller in 2015.
A spokesperson for Milk & More said: "Milk & More had, until recently, been in decline for over 40 years but we have made this decision in order to protect the jobs of hundreds of our colleagues and suppliers, as well as secure our future.
"We originally planned to implement this at the start of the year, but we delayed it due to the lockdown.
“Our decision to move Milk &More to being an online only business is not one we have taken lightly. This is why we conducted an online only trial in Essex, where we found that the majority of customers were happy to make the switch to online.
'We understand and accept that not everyone will agree with our decision...'
"Today 80% of our business is online and growing. The majority of online only food delivery businesses including supermarkets and takeaways use an ‘on the go’ prepay payment model like the one that Milk &More is adopting, which is simple and easy to use.
“In the first two weeks since our announcement we have seen the vast majority of offline customers move online.
"We understand and accept that not everyone will agree with our decision, but we believe this is the best way forward for Milk &More to deliver outstanding service to our customers and equally importantly to secure long-term growth.
“We also appreciate that for some customers there was never going to be a ‘good time’ for us to implement it - which is why we have delayed making the transition for as long as possible.
"We are doing all we can to help our offline customers make the switch - as each and every one is important to us.
"Many of our online customers currently enjoy the service with the help of a family member or trusted friend, who have helped set up their account initially.
"We are also working with a leading charity organisation called who help people get online.
"Ultimately if we are unable to find a solution that meets individual needs, then we are happy to help them, where possible, find an alternative supplier.”