Charles Walker condemns dishonest practices by energy generating companies

Speaking in a debate on energy prices, Charles Walker condemns dishonest practices by energy generators such as Veolia, and he calls on these companies to address the culture of arrogance and entitlement.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the problem with the big six and other generators, such as Veolia, is that they are not straightforward and honest with their customers and stakeholders? Until they are straightforward and honest, there will be disquiet about their conduct.

John Penrose

That is one of the underlying concerns about the way that this industry operates. People are not necessarily asked at the moment when they are switched on to the default tariff, so when they notice that they have been—if they notice—they feel that they are being ripped off, because those default tariffs are so much higher. That leads to distrust of the suppliers, and that is one of the things corroding the underlying trust in the industry as a whole. It is incredibly dangerous. I think some forward-thinking people in the industry understand that and the brand damage that is being done, not just to individual firms but to the sector as a whole. Trust is slow to gain and easy to lose. My hon. Friend has a background in marketing and consumer business, so I am sure that he understands what I mean.

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Mr Charles Walker

I made this same point to my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose): the big six and Veolia behave in this way because there is a culture of arrogance and entitlement. That is the problem, and we—or, more to the point, the companies—need to address that culture.

Mr Wright

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. A market has to be dynamic. Companies should be nervous about customers moving away, but customers are not doing that. As I said, these companies’ business models are entirely predicated on the fact that people will, for a variety of reasons, stay on the expensive tariff; because of that, though companies may provide loss-leading deals for new customers, they scoff at customer loyalty. This market is not working in anybody’s interests. It is not dynamic, efficient or effective, and ultimately it is not benefiting customers.

Mr Walker

The problem is not just the way that organisations such as Veolia and the big six treat their customers; it is the way that they treat their regulators and this place—elected representatives.

Mr Wright

This is not just about price and cost; it is about customer service, and what teeth the regulator has—and, ultimately, the Government provide—to ensure a dynamic energy market.

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