Energy crisis

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk, and contributing editor to The Engineer

I got a bit of a shock the other week when the quarterly bill for my gas and electricity came in at more than £400.

Now I realise that we have experienced some extremely cold snaps in the UK over the past few months, but I had hoped that my efforts to insulate my house with double glazing, cavity wall and loft insulation might have helped to lower the bills somewhat. Sadly, I was mistaken.

So when the representative of a competitive energy supplier phoned to tell me that he could not only provide me with cheaper fuel prices but also knock £100 off my next year’s energy bills, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

Needless to say, the news soon got back to my previous provider, which instructed its own sales representative to call to entice me back to their company with a better offer. Rather than simply hang up the phone, I decided to see how the outfit might improve upon the deal that I had already signed up to with their competition.

Surprisingly, the sales person informed me that his company could save me the considerable sum of more than £200 in my energy bills each year. But to do so I would have to sign up to an internet-based direct-debit scheme whereby the company in question would take an amount of money directly out of my bank account each quarter based on an estimation of the amount of energy that I used.

Now I’m not a big fan of direct-debit schemes. They’ve always seemed like the financial equivalent of handing over my life savings to my children to invest on my behalf in penny stocks. But when I informed the sales person, he appeared distressed that I would not want to save so much money by enrolling in the scheme.

At this point in the conversation, however, I was becoming more than a little short tempered. I questioned why and how the energy provider could deliver such savings to one set of customers who were willing to sign up to the scheme while denying the same benefits to those folks who are paying by conventional means.

Somewhat altruistically, I thought of those old-aged pensioners here in the UK, many of whom do not have or want to use the Internet to pay their bills in such a fashion. I wondered why they should be deprived of such savings simply because they do not want to adhere to the energy company’s rather biased means of pricing its energy.

It’s clear to me that all the legislation that has been introduced over the past few years to regulate these energy providers has done nothing to ensure that they behave in a fair way to all of their potential customers, regardless of the way that they wish to pay their bills.

But let’s look on the bright side. After all, the competitive energy market has provided work for hundreds – if not thousands – of sales representatives in call centres up and down the country who work late into the night to inform their customers of the latest deals that are available to them. And work of any kind can’t be a bad thing these days, can it?

Dave Wilson

The Wilson’s world blog also forms part of the Engineeringtalk, Electronicstalk and Manufacturingtalk newsletters. To subscribe, go here for Engineeringtalk, here for Electronicstalk and here for Manufacturingtalk.