Week 42: Villains – The ‘Big Six’ Energy Companies

by Ray_North on October 20, 2013

villain_2_iconThis Week’s Villains of the Week are the ‘Big Six’ energy companies.

They, and companies like them are the reason why many of us are so skint, so disaffected and so bloody angry.

A brief history lesson – once upon a time we had nationalised utilities – we had British Gas and the Electricity Board, they provided our leccy and our gas and we paid our bills. Now, actually, there was nothing wrong with the way in which these companies operated – we did not suffer from blackouts (the problems of the 1970s were not the result of the way these companies were organised), nor, did we have massive confusion concerning bills or horrible little Herberts trying to rip us off. Then along came the Thatcherites – and they believed that it was wrong for all of us to own the utilities and that things would be better if they were privatised. So, we had all that malarkey in the 1980s about ‘Tell Sid,’ and other such shite, and the old state utilities were privatised – look, said the Thatcherites, all these ordinary people can make a few quid – well, a few ordinary people made just that, a few quid, then the proper money makers, got on with the task of making a few billions. And that is what they have done.

We now have a situation where the privatised utilities are making vast profits – indeed they are making such massive profits that the regulator and the House of Commons Committees that oversee them aren’t even sure how large their profits are – something that is compounded by the fact that some of them are owned by foreign companies.

Their system of pricing has been obscene – they all get really mad when the word ‘cartel’ is mentioned, but the reality is that if you have companies operating in a wholly flawed market who are able to fix their prices in a way that is actually uncompetitive because of the nature of business, then that is exactly what we have – a cartel. To compound things – it appears, with the warnings about imminent black-outs and the fact that we are about to pay the Chinese to build nuclear reactors in the UK, that they are not even able to carry out the task that they are meant to do – provide us with energy.

In the last four years, average energy prices have risen by 24%. That’s massive. Blame the world market – say the ‘Big Six’; blame the government’s tax policies, they suggest – but, that’s not good enough, the reality is that these companies have made massive profits on the back of a crap system of regulation and a business plan designed to put the interests of their share holders first – they don’t give a monkeys cock about the consumers, because they know that, really, they don’t have to.

And it is a problem, because none of us can do without heating, none of can do without the gas or electricity that we need for cooking our food or lighting our homes – yet, we are now in a situation, where people are increasingly either cutting back on heating or electricity use or struggling to pay ever increasing bills – things that are contributing to the growing inequality in our country.

Ed Miliband has dared to take on the ‘Big Six’ – in his conference speech he promised to freeze prices for 20 months while he addressed the market. It was a clever move and a brave one – of course, he did it with one eye on the fact that it is a crackingly popular policy, but also, because it fits in with his belief that the fundamental tenets of capitalism are flawed.

So, how did the ‘Big Six’ react? Did they take on board the fact that they are contributing to the fact that many millions of people are struggling? Did they try to engage in any way? No, they tried to blacken Miliband with some nonsense about ‘blackouts’ and then they doffed an emphatic two fingered salute to us the consumers by announcing this week that they are increasing their prices by, on average, over 10%, miles above inflation.

What does that say? It says, fuck you, that’s what. And it’s because of that that the ‘Big Six’ have once again, won our weekly award for the biggest villains.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alx w October 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm

The irony is that many of the big six are actually owned by state owned foreign companies, or at least companies in which other states have a big stake, yet somehow power is always meant to be a shining example of the privitisation model. Yeah raising investment to upgrade the grid, which is why we are now in the situation of potentially having output matched by demand. Scary really.


George_East October 20, 2013 at 8:25 pm

That fact always seems to be missed by the right wing press – we appear to have fought for the innate right of state owned French companies like EdF (that’s Electricitie de France, folks) to own our energy supply.


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