Growing up in the 1970s & 80s with electric and gas slot meters, the dash for gas in our house meant something quite different to the notion of exploring our natural resources. The fraught search for a coin when the lights went out, rarely during homework but often during Coronation Street, was only surpassed by the raw panic created when the gas went off.
The gas cooker, now ornamental, mid egg & chips, would remain quiet until the shiny fifty pence piece located at the bottom of a tardis like handbag could be retrieved. There followed an obstacle race to the meter, located behind several coats, which was accompanied by cries of ‘hurry up, eggs congealing’…..
Etched in my psyche are these events, it is therefore unsurprising that as an adult I am somewhat sensitive about ensuring an uninterrupted energy supply to our family home. My duel fuel bills are paid by direct debit and I am billed online to ensure the best tariff available with my current supplier. Have I switched supplier recently? Not in the last decade.
Alongside the childhood reminiscences of fumbling to get a sweaty, slippery, fifty pence piece in the slot, under the stairs, in the dark, in a hurry, sits the painful memory of switching energy supplier last undertaken in 2001. I was scarred by this process, specifically being batted back and forth between suppliers for little over a year. Complaints to Ofgem suggest I was not alone.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigating the energy market suggest that the ‘big six’ who account for 92% of the UK’s energy supply market have millions of so called ‘sticky customers’ mainly vulnerable households who do not have the facilities, such as the internet to switch or don’t understand the switching process. Often inherited from privatisation many these households are still on costly standard variable tariffs.
CMA’s findings come as no surprise to our Domestic Energy Assessors who regularly visit leaky, draughty and costly to heat homes occupied by vulnerable customers paying more for their energy than those who are able to assert their buying power.
Admittedly, my experience of switching energy supplier is historical and according to mega animated price comparison sites, outdated. The bleating sheep like noise from government to energy market price gaffes sounds something like, ‘just switch energy companies, switching is supplier is easy’ but is it really?
I presume that is why energy company complaints continue to rocket skywards, because energy companies are making it so easy for their customers.
I might be tempted to switch energy supplier again if I had the dream team of Money Saving Expert – Martin Lewis, Watchdog – Anne Robinson and Think of A Number – Johnny Ball fighting my corner, then I would only need to be supplied a pre- paid mobile to cover hours on hold.