When I was brought up there was one gas supplier ‘the corporation’ and one electricity supplier, which eventually became the National Grid. You got a regular bill and that was it.
Then came the Thatcher privatisations of gas in 1986 (Tell SID) and electricity in 1990. By default you got the same company as supplier – British Gas or regional electricity company.
Over the years things got more complicated, in the name of competition, overseen by an energy regulator. Suppliers merged, were taken over, and new ones came along. Tariffs got ever more complex. As far as I can see, a tariff is a mechanism to get you to pay more for your energy to increase their profits, unless you have the vigilance to notice there is a better tariff available from your own or other supplier. Judging by energy company profits, this scam is highly effective.
The regulator appears to do little but tinker with the ‘market’ mechanisms. But is this actually a sensible market?
Go to a real market. Stalls rely on loyal customers and treat them well accordingly. Energy companies essentially rip off their customers and exploit any tendency to loyalty – it’s not a real market.
The regulator will say we should ‘shop around’ and change suppliers if we don’t have a good deal. Who has the time or inclination to play this silly game on a regular basis?
We have changed suppliers only once – eventually tiring of the exploitation of British Gas and MANWEB/Scottish Power. We chose one of the new environmental/ethical suppliers Ecotricity, with a commitment to a single tariff – and intend to stick with them as they are not just about making money but actually trying to reduce our dependence on carbon, vital today.
I must admit that the emergence of new suppliers such as Ecotricity and Good Energy has been one of the positive benefits of the energy privatisations. But did we really need to go through such nonsense and profiteering to achieve this?
Featured image adapted from Ecotricity website