Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Choice, the bane of our lives

I don't want to switch suppliers, its all the same stuff

Listening to the radio this morning I was angered by the chief executive from Ofgem claiming that the only way to reduce energy costs is to encourage switching. The six major energy companies put us onto their standard variable tariff once households switch from the time limited 'inducement tariffs' that are no more than a bribe to switch.

Apparently 70% of us, me included, have never switched and therefore lose out. But life is too short to spend time looking at comparison websites to find the best tariff and then coping with all the paperwork, contact centres, switching dates and changing direct debits; only to have to do the same again 12 months later unless you forget.  Gas and electricity are just the same whichever of the big six suppliers provides the headed paper. It is just another call centre with all the mind numbing nonsense that you have to deal with.

And all this in the name of choice. What would make life so much easier is not to be harangued every day by call centres seeking my custom for something I don't have or don't want to change. Or to be told by regulators like Ofgem that the best way to get a lower price is to switch. The beauty of the internet is that the customer can decide if and when they want a different product. Electricity and gas are just electricity and gas. Push marketing by the big six and the ever increasing throng of new 'suppliers' just consumes vast resources of personnel and cost that could be better spent reducing energy costs. Besides I am quite satisfied with my supplier, SSE, it is investing heavily in sustainable supplies, has a good customer contact centre and is the generator as well as supplier of electricity in the locality.

Choice was the mantra of Mrs Thatcher and pursued vigorously by Tony Blair for all sorts of public services from railways to schools as well as energy. Has it made things better? Well not according to HMIe for schools, the various regulatory bodies or even the Competition and Market Authority for services like gas and electricity. And the customers have shown a steadfast reluctance to participate in the game of leapfrog that has been introduced by the voracious band of energy suppliers that have grown in size and avarice since choice was designated "the mother of efficiency."

There are far fewer people switching energy suppliers today than there were in 2008 before the recession. Customers by and large want to switch on their energy not to switch their provider. Playing the lottery of tariffs that the government and their regulators think is the only way to increase competition is for gamblers and folk with more time than sense. Stability and fairness is what is required not the choice of a market place that inevitable penalises those who can't play or won't play this game of chance. How I long for the days of nationwide tariffs that are consistently fair to all and freedom from the never ending inducements to switch. Choice is too often a means for companies to manipulate prices and reduce value through duping the customer. I want to choose life instead.

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