Julian Knight: Let’s hope others follow npower’s smart-meter lead
At last, a consumer victory as firm says installation will not be used to sell other products in our homes
Sunday 18 September 2011
The first of the big-six energy companies has announced that when it starts installing smart meters in millions of British homes it won’t use it as an opportunity to sell other products and tariffs. Npower’s “install not sell” commitment is a victory for consumer protection, as the fear raised by groups such as Which?, and in this newspaper, is that smart meters will be used as an opportunity to pressure-sell people in their own homes.
Ever since the deregulation of the home-energy sector we have had a barrage of energy mis-selling, so just imagine what will happen when firms are allowed access to more than 20 million homes across the country. Earlier this year we discovered that British Gas was recruiting smart-meter installers on the premise that they would earn potentially bumper commissions from selling to people in their own homes.
The danger to vulnerable consumers such as the elderly is as clear as day, particularly as there are expected to be around 53 million smart meters installed by 2020. Out of all the energy companies, npower has shown the most far-sighted approach in a range of areas. Last year, for example, it agreed to compensate thousands of customers who had overpaid for gas. It did this in co-operation with Consumer Focus, rather than being dragged to it kicking and screaming. Now let’s hope that the other big energy firms follow npower’s example over install not sell.
Where to save now?
How can you even match inflation, never mind beat it? While I was on holiday, NS&I withdrew its tax-free, inflation-beating bond, and last week the Post Office stopped offering a similar product two days before its advertised deadline for investment.
When NS&I launched its bond just four months ago I was reassured by officials that this was not a short-term sojourn into the market, and that they anticipated the bond being available for a sustained period. But the lure of beating inflation and official sensitivity about drawing too much cash from deposit-taking banks and building societies has clearly choked the life out of this commitment.
Savers are left with the choice of either leaving their money on deposit and seeing it reduce in real terms, or risking it all on the stock market or other less-safe investments.
Since we entered this period of artificially low interest rates, the people who have suffered the most have been pensioners and those who rely on their savings. Without wanting to sound like a Dickensian character, the thrifty are paying for the profligate. (Strange how the language around savings seems so old fashioned – perhaps a bit like the concept itself.)
The truth is, we are living through the most sustained attack on savers in living memory. For over two years it’s been next to impossible to grow your investments – without taking quite substantial, and, for many, unacceptable risks – above inflation. And, with the abolition of these bonds, savers have even fewer options.
For sheer bloody brass neck and chutzpah you have to have a grudging admiration for Ryanair. Told by the OFT that it and the other airlines have to cut the fees they charge for booking tickets using a card, what do they do? Cave in? Not a bit of it.
No, last week the airline said that the only way that passengers will be able to avoid its £6 card-admin fee is if they take out Ryanair’s own Passport MasterCard. Being a prepaid card, it has to be loaded in advance. The press statement to accompany it is pure, vintage Ryanair (“vintage” as in floating the idea of charging to go the toilet, or for having a wheelchair waiting on leaving the plane). It goes: “We have suffered from criticism for some time that customers do not know where to get prepaid MasterCards. So we decided that to make it easier for customers they could start getting them from our website.”
That’s thoughtful of them; they make it easier for us. Usually I enjoy a good moan at companies and their policies but really there is no point with Ryanair. It is a law unto itself. In some ways it is the most transparent company there is – it doesn’t try and fool you with gushing press releases about how much it values its customers, it doesn’t appoint people to ludicrous job titles, such as head of customer vision or insight. Unlike the banks, most retailers and utility firms, it doesn’t smile at you while cutting you off at the knees; you know exactly what you’re getting.
Ed comes over all unnecessary
Ed Miliband sounded a little like the demented Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland when he called for new powers so that bankers who had crashed the world economy could be struck off.
Hardly the most controversial comment to make to the Trades Union Congress, and also completely unnecessary. There are already sanctions for executives at any company, be it in the banking sector or elsewhere – Equitable Life is a case in point. But these just aren’t used anywhere near enough.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 4 Zayn Malik on Israel-Gaza: One Direction singer bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine
- 5 'Hello mum, this is going to be hard for you to read ...'
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...
Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...
£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...
Day In a Page
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000