Whatever planet they are on I wish they would stay there and not interfere in British/English culture, policy and life in general.
Why am I wishing them a long journey on Richard Branson’s plane to outer space? This latest really unbelievable proposal that energy suppliers will have access to a new industry-wide database of customers. This will be controlled by Ofgem – which doesn’t totally inspire one with confidence. Under the plan, if a customer has been on a standard variable tariff for three years or more they will receive a letter from Ofgem informing them – not inviting them – that they will be put on this open database – unless they opt out.
So how will we all benefit?
- You will be bombarded with ‘cold calling’ telephone calls from the 36 suppliers in the market all telling you that they are the cheapest but with so much jargon, how will you tell?
- There will be waves of junk mail – it will be seem that putting 5p on carrier bags is lost in the shoals of paper you will now receive. (If you thought the amount of junk mail you receive at the moment was excessive – you ain’t seen nothing yet!). I am not sure how many of us understand energy bills but most people say that you need to be in the industry to enable you to compare different tariffs.
- Your computer will almost crash with all the junk emails from these 36 companies – and of course it won’t be long before the spammers and hackers also join in putting financial and identity fraud once again high up on the areas of concern and vulnerable people at risk with all the types of communication.
And why this awful punishment – well people have NOT spent all their free time switching companies which the government is ordering us to do whether we want to or not. The government feels there is no greater gratification than for all of us to spend our lives when not working switching all our services – we saw that with their campaign on switching banks.
Who was consulted on these proposals? Certainly not the general public. Why have these proposals been developed? Because the energy market has overcharged households by £1.7bn a year. If this is so, I think most people would prefer a rebate instead of being drowned in unwanted mail and also a enquiry or review into the structures of the ‘big six’ which allowed them to overcharge to this extent and to then draw up proper regulations to ensure this could not continue.
The government with its policy advisers says this proposal consists of ‘a wide range of bold innovative measures to enable competition so households will benefit’.
But how much will households benefit? If you have difficulty comparing tariffs, how will you know you are on a better one? On the face of it – the only people who will benefit are the energy suppliers.
Roger Witcomb – head of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says this new package ‘will transform the energy sector’ – well of course it will! The energy sector must be rubbing their hands with glee. Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, likes and welcomes the changes as do a host of business organisations. She will give a final verdict before the 25th June and it appears without reference to those who will be affected. Energy companies of course are offered the opportunity to respond to the proposals.
There have been some dissenting voices – but not sure whether they have been heard. Steve Thomas – a professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich does not believe these proposals will prevent UK consumers being unnecessarily subjected to some of the highest energy bills in the EU. Fuel Poverty Action does not believe it will have impact on the majority of hard pressed households struggling with high energy bills.
So isn’t it time the public started shouting ‘we don’t want this rubbish’? I thought ‘cold calling’ was banned/illegal but obviously different government departments don’t actually communicate with each other. What will be the cost of employing people to send all this unwanted junk? How many trees will be lost for all this paper? Most people would prefer to receive the cash. How will they know whether this daft policy has worked? Are they going to monitor how many people ‘switched’ because they received a form of junk information?
This appears to be another knee jerk response to a serious issue with money being thrown at it without proper thought and consultation. What can we do? Highlight the issue in newsletters, at meetings, to mayoral candidates, your MP – just let us know how you got on.