A turbine doth not a Green company make
I’m keen to leave Britain’s Big Six main energy suppliers behind and have been shopping for a new one over past months. I wrote to all the ones I liked with a list of identical questions not answered on their website. I was very disappointed by most of their overall answers.
Being green is not just about solar and wind generated energy and a rejection of nuclear and fossil fuel. Green is a world view that starts with equality, respect and justice. I’m reading the No Nonsense Guide to Green Politics at present, a New Internationalist publication by Derek Wall. And it reiterates my understanding that greens are generally against capitalism, for freedom and liberty and highly critical of the financial philosophies and behaviours that have caused global suffering.
So why do several green energy companies do credit checks – a system created by the American banks who are at the heart of the economic bubble that’s just burst? The values behind credit checks are very capitalist, whilst the creators fail their own criteria. And credit checks are intrusive – something I know greens dislike from their criticism of current welfare practices.
Most sites want direct debit – again, benefitting banks, themselves, but not customers. We lose control over money leaving our account (causing banking fees if we don’t have enough), and we pay more than we use. There’s been reports of quite large average overpay for most customers using direct debit (also true if you have a payment plan on a low income, with or without direct debit).
Most worrying was their relationships to debt collection. The policy of cutting off supply even in winter, revealed by accident when I lobbied against yet another price rise, is why I am leaving my current supplier (not because it happened to me, just the principle). Ecotricity lauds itself as especially ethical, taking the time to show up other companies on their website, and is advertised by the Green party. (I am not sure about an energy company and a party going together). I’d like to point out that Ecotricity has the worst debt collecting policy of all the independents, as bad as the Big Six energy companies. Despite being all over my local paper this week, effectively giving themselves a free ad, they omit that you go into collections after 2 weeks after a bill is outstanding. They may charge for debt recovery, including in relation to a previous occupant’s alleged bill! And they could cut you off in as little as a month – worse than the company I’m leaving! And debt/reconnection costs will be incurred. That rubbishes any claim of being ethical, green or different. And means I will not become a customer. Plus they seem like awful employers, with their “rigorous retesting” of the customer service staff. Ethics extend to customer service and employees and there’s definitely a gap here.
Ovo can add late fees. But they won’t cut off supply; they told me that categorically they’ll work with you to pay off outstanding balances.
Another un-green thing is holding customers into contracts with exit fees – a deeply capitalist idea.
Nearly all do it, especially on fixed rate schemes.
I’d also like to query why dates of birth have become mandatory when you sign up to an energy company. What do you need this intrusive and identifying information? I didn’t have to give it when I signed up to my current supplier, but I note I would have to now as a new customer with them. This has put me off my new chosen supplier, and the tone of the terms and conditions that I don’t think I could see until going to the signing up process. (I cancelled it to have a think).
None of the green energy companies offer a low income scheme and several charge a bit higher than main companies.
Finally – beware price comparisons. Every company has exaggerated my old supplier’s bills and claimed a saving, which I am cynical of. Already one of the many suffering with fuel poverty, I really don’t need a rise when I try very hard to be a low and responsible energy user.
I’d like to think that energy companies took heed and made all of their business – not just the Tellytubby windmills – truly Green (not necessarily in the party sense) but in having bottom line values which are ethical, not just for a simple price plan and a natural design on their website!