The gap between “acceptable” business practices and downright dishonesty seems to me to grow ever narrower as time marches on, especially when dealing with large corporations.
For instance, as our garage stands some distance away from the house, when we took the decision to fit an electrically operated garage door, we were informed by our energy supplier that it would require a separate meter which was installed a couple of years ago. Since then the cost of opening the garage door two or three times a month has cost the grand sum of just under one hundred pounds and ten pounds a year, virtually all of which is accrued in standing charges while the power actually consumed is little more than a few pence each month. Browsing the net the other day, I came across a power supplier who was offering an electricity account with no standing charges which sounded interesting . The rate for the electricity was considerably higher, but it was patently obvious that we were going to make some reasonable cost reductions. Being the gullible idiot that I am and still mistakenly thinking that loyalty counts for something, I contacted our current supplier who happen to be one of the largest gas and electricity companies in the UK and asked whether they offered a similar type of account. I was told that they did not. Fair enough, back to the potential new supplier who informed me that based on our bills over the last two years they would offer an annual fixed price contract for the princely sum of 99 pence a month and asked if I would be interested in changing to them? Too right I would, if it’s going to come in nearly a hundred quid cheaper. They assured me that they would handle all the paperwork and I would hear from them in the future with a commencement date.
A few days later I received a phone call from our original supplier asking the reason why we were transferring to another company. When I explained, they then said that they offered a similar type of contract at a better rate than the new one from the other company, despite the fact they had previously denied that they offered this type of deal at all. They were somewhat surprised when I told them that in the light of the way they had behaved, they could take their offer and stuff it where the sun don’t shine (or words to that effect)
Which brings me to the point of this post and my mother. Ninety eight years old, deaf as a post and therefore doesn’t like to use the phone. If you handed her a computer she wouldn’t know how to turn it on, never mind being able to find or access comparison websites. A good customer though, one who pays her bills by direct debit, which also means she never receives a paper bill. This neatly avoids the problem where the rules says that your supplier must inform you if they can offer a cheaper tariff than the one you are currently on. I changed from her original supplier some years ago saving her some 25% of her annual cost which is a tidy sum as her gas heating is on twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Had I not been around, she would still be none the wiser, still on her original tariff and several hundreds of pounds worse off.
It’s perfectly obvious that this type of attitude cannot fail to penalise the frail and elderly and perhaps those who maybe don’t have the technical savvy or equipment to do anything about it. When did this method of generating increased profits by the targeting of the disadvantaged become in any way morally acceptable, legal or even considered by some to be good business practice?