I don’t have the energy for this

I live in England, but I buy my electricity and gas from a French company. (I have just about got my head around this bizarre reality of modern times.) Yesterday I received a reply to a complaint I sent them two months ago. I had asked why we get visits by separate gas and electricity meter readers, with annoying frequency, when they give me (a) a ‘dual fuel’ discount and (b) Nectar points for reading my own meters. They said they didn’t read my meters, that was done by another company.

Before privatisation, the meters were read separately. After privatisation, the meters are read separately (by another company!). Nothing physically changed. All the cables and pipes are the same. Having different companies selling us energy is just an accounting construct to introduce competition. I understand that.

But what good has this change really done? The energy suppliers spend plenty of money on adverts and sponsorship. They pay door-to-door canvassers to call at inconvenient times. They each have head offices full of staff doing jobs which never existed before. Who ultimately pays for all these overheads? Consumers. Plus, my supplier isn’t even British any more.

It would be OK if this competition brought the assumed benefits. Downward pressure on prices through consumer choice should force competing companies to become more efficient. But there isn’t true competition in the domestic energy market. We don’t switch suppliers, even though we can. That’s because tariff comparison is not for the faint-hearted, and the process of actually changing suppliers is slow and bureaucratic. Plus you may find (as I did) that your new supplier hikes their rates soon after you join them.

Life’s just too short to fiddle about with energy suppliers. Gas and electricity come into my house unseen. Money is taken from my bank for what I use. That should be it. Anything more involving is a hassle I can do without.

One thought on “I don’t have the energy for this

  1. I spent an immensely entertaining 20 minutes talking to a door-to-door canvasser last week. A tall, skinny woman, probably not even out of her teens, of Scandinavian origin, she had all the patter down for making the experience as easy as possible. Representing nPower, in all likelihood I might have benefited from switching over – indeed, I admitted to her that I knew this to be the case and had every intention of checking the details online. However, it was early evening, the smell of cooking wafting from the kitchen, and I had no intention of doing anything there and then. This didn’t compute. The woman couldn’t understand why, given nPower were cheaper and she had offered to complete all the paperwork for me, I wasn’t prepared to sign my life away that second for a few months of cheap dual fuel. The reason – I just didn’t want to. I realise my indecision has likely cost me dearly over the last week, but there and then wasn’t the moment.

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