Thursday, 4 August 2016
Energy costs (and more): trust, not competition, is what's wanted.
The powers that be have acknowledged that the privatised energy suppliers (gas and electricity) are ripping us off, and have proposed a series of measures designed to make we consumers become more alert. Their solution is to persuade us to "switch" - either to another tariff or another company.
Indeed, the energy suppliers have been ordered to tell OFGEM, the government regulator for the gas and electricity markets, of anyone who has not changed supplier for three years, and then all the others , of which there are six major ones, will be able to write to us offering what may be a better deal.
As recorded in my previous post, one of the reasons the "Leave" campaigners were successful in the EU was that they listened (and came up with the slogan "take back control" which resonated with the disaffected), but the Remain campaigners lived in their own little bubble and didn't listen.
I suspect the Competition and Markets authority, who have come up with the "switch"suggestion, are equally deaf to our real needs.
What I believe most people really want is not to be pestered with all sorts of alternative, and often incomprehensible, suggestions, but firms which we can trust to deal with us fairly. This applies not only to energy suppliers, but house and car insurance, banks and possibly other areas as well.
I have come to dread the months of June and July, when my house and car insurance are due for renewal. I am neither innumerate not completely computer illiterate, but I do not relish spending great chunks of sunny days messing about getting matching quotes and trying to bargain down my existing supplier. Yet this is what the system imposes on me.
For example Saga, a firm allegedly designed to look after the elderly, proposed to increase car insurance by 36%. In the past I have spent time getting a matching quote and holding them to their promise to beat it (which they do by 1p.) This year I couldn't be bothered but simply went to another company and obtained similar cover for about two thirds of their price. Ditto for house insurance
What I really want is a bank, insurance company and energy supplier who will treat me fairly, so that I can spend my days doing what I enjoy doing, confident that I may not be getting the lowest price, highest rate of interest, or whatever, but that I am being given a fair
As it happens, as far as energy supplies are concerned, I buy both gas and electricity from ECOTRICITY who aim to obtain as much of their supplies as possible form sustainable or renewable sources. As afar as I know they are not over-charging me, but if they are then at least it's for a good cause.
What the Competition and Markets Authority needs to do is find means of creating firms capable of balancing ethical values of service and fairness with reasonable profit.