Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's a gas, gas, gas

Margaret Thatcher, bless her insane blue cotton socks. In her delusion that the market is the supreme impartial regulator and arbiter of all matters spiritual and temporal, she genuinely believed that by throwing open the doors of the monolithic nationalised industries she could create a brave new world. Men like her husband and her father, hard headed sharp nosed businessmen, but public spirited with it, would come out of the woodwork and take over. They would run the businesses efficiently and ruthlessly, yes, but also profitably, not only for themselves but for the country.

I think she honestly had no idea she was just empowering a whole new generation of shysters who would gladly run everything into the ground, get rich doing so, and then jump ship just before it hit. Whyever would someone run a railway who had no interest in running railways? British Gas selling electricity? The AA doing personal finance? I mean, come on, in the mindset of 1979 it makes no sense at all. Yet such is the world we now live in.

All on my mind recently because we are Changing Suppliers. Long ago in the Way Back When I got my electricity from Southern Electric and my gas from British Gas. Then, as a result of being accosted by an irritating young twerp in the doorway of the Virgin Megastore, I switched to Virgin (I know, I should have better reasons, but their prices really were cheaper). Virgin's energy division promptly changed their name to EDF Energy and charged more, but I stuck with them.

Until last week, when we decided it was time to re-evaluate our options. Some web searching and price comparing led us to decide we should switch both gas and electric back to British Gas.

All well and good, until we get our customer contract this morning and see that they are planning to charge us more than we currently pay. I call the number they give us, but the nice lady there can't help because that is only for telephone customers whereas we are internet customers. So I call a second number. The slightly less nice lady there can't locate our account and do anything with it, because it's still being set up. But, she says, if we were genuinely quoted a lower price, then we can call back in a few weeks and they will change the amount they charge to match it. In the meantime we will have to go ahead with the present contract.

So, our options are now two.
  • Scrap the contract and stay with the present supplier, on the grounds that the alleged savings aren't worth the hassle.
  • Accept a contract that, in print, quotes the higher price. Do as the lady said, call back in a few weeks and get them to change to the quoted lower price ... all in accordance with a purely oral promise.

Can I just add that we are trying to be green here, and the British Gas deal involves them using sustainable renewable emission-free low calorie fat free CFC friendly sources of electricity like windpower, and planting new trees. The small print said that the promise only applied to the electricity side of the deal, not the gas. You mean, they're not going to kill billions of microscopic marine animals and bury them for millions of years to replenish the supply? I'm shocked.

1 comment:

  1. We still get our electricity from Southern Electric and our gas from British Gas.
    Ex-housemate S once invited a young man in off the doorstep who tried very hard to persuade her to change. We had an unwritten rule that all of us had to agree to household decisions of this nature, and while he was there I refused to enter the room. I said he could leave the details and we would discuss, but he wouldn't leave. Ninety minutes later she worked out it couldn't be that great a deal.
    I am not sure anything is really. What I do know about British Gas is that they are the 'supplier of last resort' -- ie if nobody else will sell you gas then they still have to. I find this kind of noble. I suspect this makes me a fool, but (as I think you said yourself recently) you have to have *some* basis for making largely arbitrary decisions...


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.