/ Money, Shopping

Your comments this week – profits, seats and aisles

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What would you tell your energy company about its profits? What do you think about supermarket ‘man aisles’? And who’s to blame for empty Olympic seats? Here’s what you’ve been saying this week.

Energy company profits

William replies to our virtual energy company CEO:

‘Hello Ms Virtual CEO, you could “win” me over by showing the wholesale price of gas and electricity in force over the time of my current bill.

‘And don’t tell me your buyers only buy in bulk just as prices drop and never before rises in the wholesale price. ‘Cos if you do, can I suggest you sack the lot of them as they’re clearly not doing your customers any favours.’

Dragilex thinks some company profits should be capped:

‘Essential service companies (gas, electric, water, etc) should have their profits capped, rising in line with interest rates (during hard times all should suffer), any profit above the cap should go back to the consumer.’

Calling your bank – do you miss the ‘human’ touch?

John Harvey had an idea for smartphone tech to support companies’ automated services:

‘As I experience intermittent deafness, something that could make [a smartphone] particularly attractive to me is a facility that converts any stressful “if… press 1″ etc spiel into a succession of instant touchscreen menus that I could tap through. I would want one with a “human contact” icon at any stage. Does such a thing exist? If not, from what has been said already in this conversation, it would seem to be of benefit to the banks to finance its development.

Tom Fiddian from Action on Hearing Loss replied:

‘I’m not aware of any apps that can be used to replace these audible telephone prompts with a human. Although more and more services, like paying bills, giving meter readings etc, can be accessed online or through the company’s own proprietary apps. I find these much easier to use than the “press 1 for…” telephone prompts.’

Which would you cut back on – food or the net?

For Molly, the internet is her lifeline:

‘I am housebound and I live alone, so the Internet is my lifeline – without the Internet as a tool for buying goods there would be no food. That’s an exaggeration, I suppose, as I have good neighbours who would shop for me but maintaining my independence is vital to me – so the Internet stays. Like the previous person to post, I rely on the Internet to keep my mind stimulated and in good working order – it has had 80 years of hard wear. It is possible to eat well by cutting down on the most expensive, luxury food items so that, in this time of rapidly rising prices, the Internet remains affordable.’

Who’s to blame for empty seats at the Games?

Olympian cloud had this to say about the empty seats at the Olympic Games:

‘The British taxpayers are big contributors to the Olympic games – and it is unacceptable that there is no accountability and no responsibility for the empty seats. For each empty seat there is a broken heart of someone refused that seat. I would suggest to everyone to check on the price of tickets for so-called returned “empty seats”, their prices are exorbitant and out of reach from most of the ordinary tax payers. I feel sad that the British public paid and will pay back debts for years to come, for what result?

‘We, the taxpayers, the ordinary public are just milking cash cows to provide the best seats to unknown people who do not even have the decency of giving back their tickets which often were freebies at our expenses.’

Men: know your shopping limits

Finally, Nikki Whiteman’s Conversation about ‘man aisles’ being introduced in a New York shop led to this cheeky comment from ‘A Real Man’, who gets our Comment of the Week:

‘Wow, this new aisle will be amazing for a real man like me. I sometimes spend hours walking around getting lost in the supermarket trying to find my way from the condoms to the dips whilst eating crisps on my way. How awesome that it’ll all be together now. I often wonder what all the other stuff in the supermarket is for but I assume it’s just for women to buy. Sauces and spices and tins of food? WTF? To be honest, as a man, I wouldn’t know what to do with that stuff.

‘I once embraced my inner feminism by venturing into a different isle at the supermarket in which I bought some mashed potato. Alas, when I got it home it was just a packet of weird cream-coloured powder. What was I supposed to do with that? I vowed there and then that I needed a male aisle and I washed my vow down with a beer and some peanuts and have been happily male ever since…’

Comments have been edited due to length, so make sure to read them in full on their relevant Convos (by clicking on the red title link).


Has anyone had a problem with their energy supplier preventing them from changing to another supplier by fitting a “Smart Meter” that only transmits energy consumption to their current supplier, that other companies cannot read, forcing them renew their contract with their current supplier?

Long-term, smart meters should make it quicker to switch energy suppliers. In theory, they can be instructed to send information about your energy use to a new energy company instantaneously. In the short term, though, smart meters may actually be a barrier to switching. If you already have a first-generation (SMETS1) smart meter, it may turn ‘dumb’ if you switch energy supplier. This can happen if your chosen supplier is unable to operate your smart meter. In this case, you’d need to send meter readings again. By the end of the roll-out in 2020, any first-generation meters already installed will be upgraded remotely so that all energy suppliers can operate them.

You may also benefit from this guide: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/smart-meters/article/smart-meters-explained/smart-meter-problems-and-solutions

Another scenario is what happened to me. When I switched supplier the gas and electric smart meters were replaced with new ones and I was given a new display unit.

I doubt that any of the existing display units will be capable of coping when energy price varies according to the time of day, but maybe I’m a pessimist.

How curious that this Conversation has stood empty for six years and has just been woken up by the controversial subject of smart meters – which were just a pipe-dream in the energy companies’ eyes in 2012. I didn’t have the heart to report Alex’s comment as being off-topic! I question whether consumers will ever get value out of the SM Rollout and why Which? was such an avid supporter of it.

How odd also that Alex’s former avatar appears here whereas her new one appears in the Latest Comments. Patrick Steen’s avatar at the top of this Conversation has been updated to his current one – he looked so different in 2012.

I suppose I should get out more.

This is one of the old weekly round-up Convos, John. Some attracted comments but many did not.

Yes, I realised that, Wavechange – I think if they have lain empty for more than a year they should be taken down, or if they have been idle for such a time they should be closed to new comments, since they can – as in this case – be used to divert discussion away from more recent and up-to-date Conversations.

I agree, but rather than simply locking them it would be useful to suggest how visitors to the page can find relevant Conversations, perhaps providing a link to the search facility.

Oversimplifying energy bills might be popular, but can be misleading. While wholesale costs are, of course, relevant to what you pay they, firstly, are only about 36% or so of an average dual fuel bill.The remainder is made up of transmission costs, government levies, administration costs, profit and tax.

However, many companies buy their energy a year, or several, ahead to protect against sudden changes in costs of energy so the current wholesale cost is not necessarily helpful.

As far as profits go in 2016 two of the “big 6” made losses, not profits, of 0.9% and 6.3%. The other 4 made profits of between 5 and 7% – hardly excessive.