Editorial – Price cuts are pointless PR stunts

There I’ve said it. What’s the point of price cuts? Just as August is silly season, January is normally price cut/price rise time for the Big Six and anyone else. […]

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By Sumit Bose

There I’ve said it.

What’s the point of price cuts? Just as August is silly season, January is normally price cut/price rise time for the Big Six and anyone else.

Today the last of them announced cuts and as ever they are all roughly the same (around 5% this year) and as ever they don’t come into effect until winter is over.

Yep good news you’re getting a price cut, bad news you’ll be turning your heating off when you get it. Good news it’s not affecting our profits as you’re using lots of your energy now while you’re on the higher tariff.

PR win says the bloke or lass advising your lesser spotted CEO.

Poor advice

This week shows the futility of all this and why I am still staggered to ask who advises these energy companies on strategy and communication?

Recently there was an article in the tabloid press berating the bosses of the Big Six for their salaries. It didn’t really bother me that they were on average earning at least a million if not more. These CEOs are keeping the lights on and have the livelihoods of thousands in their hands. I’m sure they are worth the salary of a low level Premier League footballer!

But no – no robust defence of their positions or the good work they are doing. Energy UK had no comment for us on the issue. The body that’s supposed to defend the sector can’t even stand up for the people who pay for it.

Don’t get me wrong it’s easy for part of me to say these corporations are nasty, when a gran in Grimsby has to turn off the heating and there are still millions living in fuel poverty. But you need to make a rational decision about things and then communicate that to the public.

Timing

The price cuts are useless. They should have been done before winter started!

Everyone knew long term wholesale prices were plummeting, shouldn’t one of these CEOs or their advisors made the call back in August or September?

If they really want to make the customers feel warm towards them then the Big Six need to do the things that matter much better and then communicate that to the public;

Fix your customer service.

Answer the phones on time.

Get meter readings right.

Don’t send threatening letters when someone has paid.

Don’t make it hard to complain.

And cut prices when people need them cut!

I’ve met several of the CEOs of energy companies and they are perfectly personable decent people. None has seemed to me set out to p**s off their customers by deciding they’ll just do irresponsbile things.

They are working to keep the power on while we transition to low carbon. They are training new engineers and apprentices to offer employment to the next generation. They do seem to care about the price of energy. But yes they are businessmen (sadly still all men), out to make a profit.

But if only they could learn to communicate better they would stop stumbling from one PR disaster into another.

Be brave and be rational.

Don’t try to spin, just talk.