Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Whose side are they on?

Last October, I castigated the energy regulator OFGEM for giving approval to price comparison websites which actually hide the best energy deals from the customer.[1]

Despite purporting to give you independent advice on the best deal for you, these websites won’t show you these unless they get paid commission for doing so.

It’s astonishing. It’s a rip-off. How could anyone given the statutory responsibility for acting in consumers’ interests ever believe that that such a practice is reasonable? Only, it appears, if they are pandering to a Conservative-led government and a Liberal Democrat Energy Minister, who are determined to sit on their hands.

Well, blow me down. Ex-Tory MP Matthew Parris has also now woken up to this appalling state of affairs. In his column in The Times[2], he writes:

“Every now and again an event occurs that serves as a parable for where our politics and politicians are going wrong. Because I am a Conservative I’m especially sensitive to stories that show up my own party’s weaknesses.

Here’s one. The story, though infuriating, is in itself minor. But it is indicative. Such things could spell the death of a 21st-century Conservative party.

The question to which Tories are in mortal danger of giving the wrong answer is simple. Whose side are they on? Dishonest and greedy businesses? Or their customers?”

Having satisfied himself that these practices are continuing – although he can’t decide whether it is downright lying or simply disingenuous – he continues

“When I heard about this last year I thought Tory ministers would react not only with anger but an immediate determination to do something about it. I thought so for three reasons.

First — and simply — because it was disgraceful.

Secondly — and for more self-interested reasons — because the Tories have been under pressure from Labour over energy prices……

The third reason for embracing this campaign is important to me. Public understanding of the theory of capitalism is dangerously weak…….

I wish I could report ministers are trying but I cannot………

But if my party is to be what it ought to be — a party for all the people — it must develop and display an instinct for popular economic and commercial justice. Is the instinct even there? This episode makes you wonder.”

Let me put him out of his misery. His Conservative Party will always act, in the very words of Adam Smith which Parris quotes,  “… in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”.  It is their instinct.