Claire Black: Mustering the energy to change

Claire Black
Claire Black
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‘WHEN did you last change your energy provider?” If I had a quid for every time I’ve heard that question asked in the past week, I’d be able to afford to have my heating on without a single, solitary thought about how much it’s costing.

“Ed Miliband has done it,” people say smugly. “I mean, if you don’t want the Big Six to fleece you, you need to stay on your toes and change supplier.” Those saying this are the same people, I’d guess, who spend their evenings scouring and for bargains and have a wallet stuffed full of coupons and Groupons and loyalty cards.

So here’s my confession: I hate all of that stuff. I loathe it. There’s almost nothing I’d rather not do, other than set fire to a wad of tenners (which, I realise, you might argue, is the very thing I’m doing by not studying the internet for ways to save spondulicks).

It’s not that I’m loaded, or profligate, or because I think myself above such things. It’s partly because I cannot shake off the feeling that the many ways to be a savvy consumer really are not that savvy at all. They’re not about getting value for money, even if, by the by, you do save a bit of cash. They’re sops to soften the blow that, increasingly, what we are asked to pay for stuff doesn’t really have anything at all to do with what that stuff is worth. Why should I have to keep businesses honest by threatening to take my cash elsewhere?

“Pah!” People say. “You’re just lazy.” All you have to do is enter your postcode into a price comparison site and, bish, bash, bosh you could save a packet. As much as £300 a year, they say (or more likely £141 for the average consumer, according to the consumer group Which?). Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn up my nose at a fiver, so that isn’t the issue. I just can’t shake off the feeling that the whole thing is a bit, well, off.

The Big Six argue prices have to rise because the cost of buying energy in the global market has increased. If it was as simple as that then I’d guess most people, after a bit of grumbling, would probably be willing to pay a bit more. You know, fair’s fair. It’s just that when CEOs are taking multi-million-pound salaries and bagging bonzer bonuses, it’s hard not to suspect something’s a little awry. That’s probably why, when the think-tank Class surveyed people about energy price rises, a massive 74 per cent of them said they believed that government should be able to exert some kind of control over how much energy suppliers charge.

And if that wasn’t enough, have you ever tried dealing with yours? It once took me three years to get NPower to accept that it wasn’t supplying my energy. It took six phone calls and four letters to get ScottishPower to accept that it was. Surely life is too short?

AS ANY dog owner will know, any hints as to why our canine companions behave as they do is to be welcomed. Why do you always want to go left, rather than right when we leave home? I ask mine every morning. Why do you want to eat something rotten you’ve found under a bench when you turn up your nose at your dried pellet salmon and potatoes at home?

Well, now some new information has been gleaned by neuroscientists at the University of Trento in Italy. Apparently dogs wag their tails to the left or the right depending on how happy or sad they feel. To the right – they’re happy. To the left – not so much. As to why they do “jugtail” (you’re right, that’s not a scientific term, but it is what I say when my dog makes her tail the shape of a jug handle), we’re still none the wiser.

WE DON’T half do well in those “top places to visit/places to live” polls, eh? Sorry, I don’t mean to sound surprised, I mean I know Scotland is an amazing country. It’s just that the world is rather large – there are, after all, nearly 200 countries that potentially one might want to go to, so it’s kind of amazing that in a list of the top ten countries to visit in 2014, Scotland came third. Brazil bagged the top spot – I think it’s something to do with a football competition – and Antarctica came second, but there we were in the bronze medal position. And Edinburgh was described as “the most Gothic city outside Transylvania”. That’ll be the foot of Leith Walk on a Saturday morning. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays