SERVICE: What a price for a ‘deal’

After a near three-year battle, we managed to change energy providers. Blessed relief you might think, but it was only the start of another adventure as to which new supplier to choose.

I am only in my early 60s, but I yearn for the time when things had a specific price. A bottle of milk was so much, gas cost that amount and a train ticket was a certain price. How times have changed.

Our supermarket bombards you with deals of two for the price of one, or buy two and save this much.

My question is why? Surely it would be a lot better if a supplier charged the least they could for their product while still making a profit.

I thought this is what competition was all about. Not any more, everything is now ‘a deal’.

Who to choose to supply our electricity? First port of call, a comparison website, which can estimate your bill from your postcode. The site came up with lots of deals.

The cheapest quotes were from companies who only traded online, no phone numbers, no paper correspondence.

You sign up, give them your bank details, they estimate everything, and you give them a meter reading every year or so. Not for me.

Deciding I wanted a paper bill ruled out most of the comparison quotes. I had had one company recommended and looked at its quote, which didn’t seem too bad. I decided to check its own website. Good job.

Not only was it not their cheapest offer, but would have tied us into a five-year contract.

I decided I wanted to speak to someone. It took a little time to find a phone number, but patience paid off and I spoke to a helpful operator. Even then we had to go through all the ‘if you sign up for this period you can save so much’. A few other minor inconveniences and we had sealed ‘the deal’.

It was much the same with phone and broadband. Our current supplier wrote saying that it was increasing its charges.

Its TV adverts, however, were offering a cheaper line rental and free broadband for a year. I was told the offer only applied to new customers.

Another provider offered cheaper line rental and free broadband so I phoned my supplier, told it I was moving and asked for a mac key (I have no idea what it is). Without hesitation, it gave us the cheap line rental and free broadband.

Today, it was car breakdown cover. We received our renewal reminder for nearly £70.

A few checks and I could get almost the same cover, with a well-known company, for £19.08.

I had to phone the old provider to cancel its cover. Its response was: ‘Why didn’t you contact us first, we could have offered you a better deal?’

It is all unfair. These companies are penalising loyal customers.

Surely it should be a case of automatically offering their best possible price to everyone.

One final gripe. When you do phone a company, why all the security questions? None are original.

I have given the same information to so many people over the years that by now everybody and their dog must know my mother’s maiden name.

Mel Shaw,

Wooler