Shopping around

Shopping around

We all want competitive and suitable energy, telephone and digital services. Why pay more? That’s how a deregulated market is supposed to work and stay competitive. Changing utility suppliers, banks or insurance should be an easy, however, I am currently being reminded that it is anything but.

Although my current bank is satisfactory, the new customer services advisor at my former bank, a very pleasant but extremely determined woman, offered me cash and shares if I agreed to move my pension plan back to them. Since my plan has not been earning money at my current bank, it seemed like a good idea, but it is turning out to be hard work. They needed copies of my current plan, copies of my most recent receipts, my grandmother’s birth certificate… well not the birth certificate, but plenty of other document. Since my original visit, I have had to go in three times and I can’t tell you how many times she has called and emailed. I don’t rule out further visits, calls and emails, because my plan still hasn’t moved. I also suspect my current bank has not detected my intentions yet, because they are sure to bombard me with calls to badger me to stay. My personal manager at that bank is also sure to start calling and pressuring me. Really, I don’t think this is the way the free market is supposed to work.

There are personal problems, too. For example, my insurance broker is an acquaintance from years ago. My bank has offered me a big discount on my household insurance, and naturally, I would like to save a few hundred euros, so I have decided to go ahead and change. I do not feel I owe him any loyalty because I had a few drinks with him 15 years ago. Yesterday, I emailed my broker asking for the expiry date of my policy and he is obviously displeased. I have just received an email from him wanting to ‘discuss this matter’. What is there to discuss? If he has some incredible offer for me, why didn’t he send it to me before I decided to move. But I feel inexplicably guilty.

Switching my direct debits is also turning out to be complicated. Utility companies find it easy enough to take money from your account, but far more difficult to change the account. They require you to sign direct debit mandates and post them. This may not seem like a big deal, but I do not live on the doorstep of the post office, where, incidentally, there is always a queue. Some of us must work. I used to shop around, but it is so complicated that I have given up. It is like a conspiracy to make you stay where you are.

In theory, shopping around is a good idea, but I don’t blame people if they can’t be bothered to do it. Apart from the time-consuming formalities, the pressure from existing suppliers is very unpleasant and stressful. And all to save a few euros…

Written by editor