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Is there too much choice?

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Peter G. Shaw01/01/2022 11:46:09
1408 forum posts
44 photos

Do you hanker after the old days?

I have just renewed my home insurance and my landline line rental. Later in the year I will have to consider the rest of my telephone charges, and then in 12 months time, consider my electric charges when the current fixed rate ends. Along the way, I’ll reluctantly pay the BBC tax (sorry folks), renew my car insurance, my caravan insurance, road assistance membership fee, etc, etc, etc. And all the while, I will be thinking that life was much simpler 40 & more years ago when there was only one supplier of anything.

Actually, that’s not totally true, eg, house insurance used to be decided by your mortgage supplier so although there were alternatives, in effect you only had one choice.

But, when there was only the one supplier, ok there were problems, life was much simpler because you had no choice in the matter. Well, you did have choice – the alternative being to do without!

It does seem to me that for some things, gas, electric, telephone, that a single supplier could be a good idea. Yes, I know it amounts to removing choice, and leaves us subject to the vagaries of monopolies, but there are ways around that, eg totally separate organisation whose focus is only on the price the customer pays.

Yes there will be many problems, objections, but from my point of view, it would make my life considerably simpler as I would no longer have to ponder over which is the best supplier, wonder if the change to a new supplier is going to be smooth, and is the new supplier going to be satisfactory long term.

What do you think? Is our life being made unnecessarily complicated by this emphasis on choice?

Peter G. Shaw

Circlip01/01/2022 11:56:43
1499 forum posts

Regard it as "Brain exercise" Peter, the annual tiptoe through the minefield of choice. You then have twelve months to regret what you thought was a good deal.

Regards Ian.

derek hall 101/01/2022 11:58:06
214 forum posts

Hi Peter,

I agree especially when sorting out house or car insurance on one of the many comparison websites. It's made more tedious by trying to compare like for like and then noticing all the hidden charges when you think you have found a good deal...!

Happy New Year!



pgk pgk01/01/2022 12:11:51
2549 forum posts
293 photos

I contend that a lot of this situation was caused by spin. There was a need to damp down the power of unions by breaking up the big monopolies of the state but mostly used as a revenue raising exercise to finance government profligacy. Simply put the real cost to end user would be cheaper if there weren't extra levels of admin and share dividends. It's absurd that fundamental utilities should be priced so differently..
We also have that nonsense of 'centres of excellence' as a way of claiming greater economy of scale with hospitals - usually ending up with far longer travel times for many, total chaos when a unit has to close due to infectious disease and a far greater admin overhead less able to see the true picture through the haze of confusion. Local facilities for basic care with only a few transfers to specialist access make more sense to me.
Back when the GPO took responsibility for both line and customer, I’m sure repairs were faster and smoother.
Car insurance was a different story - with some flighty operators going bust.


duncan webster01/01/2022 12:40:34
3919 forum posts
61 photos
Posted by pgk pgk on 01/01/2022 12:11:51:

Back when the GPO took responsibility for both line and customer, I’m sure repairs were faster and smoother.


It took months to get a new phone installed when the GPO was in charge. Anyone remember party lines? Now it takes days. Competition sharpens the mind of providers, although regulation is required. Where privatisation doesn't make sense is where there is no competition. I can only buy water from United Utilities. If I could buy it from someone else based on how much sewage they pump into the rivers I could affect their bottom line, as it is the government just slaps their wrist and allows them to pass on fines to the customer. If fines had to be paid by the directors in person they might get their act together

Peter Cook 601/01/2022 13:07:54
258 forum posts
73 photos

I was once told that the easy way to tell the difference between rich and poor is that the rich spend money to save time, and the poor spend time to save money. The "chaos" you experience is simply a by product of competition for your business. If you don't cater to the siren calls from the press and society that suggest you are neglecting your duty if you don't shop around.

If time is that valuable, one way to solve the problem is to hire a "concierge service" that will do all the boring stuff for you. That simplifies life considerably - but at a cost!!

The cheaper ( but not cheapest) solution to household services etc. is to pick a supplier for each and stick with them. Use direct debit to pay what and when they ask for.

JA01/01/2022 14:00:20
1345 forum posts
80 photos

I stay away from comparison websites. They are all biased and want to sell you a, or their, product. For house, bike and car insurance I use a local insurance broker (remember them?). No time wasting, always a simple phone call that is answered quickly (no multiple options) and I think I get a good deal. As for gas and electricity, I don't switch. This may be stupid but being suspicious I ask myself why are you encouraged to switch. Money?


Ady101/01/2022 14:06:48
5065 forum posts
734 photos

Better than in the usa where "choice" includes your health insurance contract

"choice" means joe blow having to negotiate with a multi million dollar organisation and its army of dodgy lawyers with their iffy "contracts"

Nicholas Farr01/01/2022 14:53:10
3310 forum posts
1524 photos

Hi, I think the choice we have about just about everything you can have now compared to the old days, has become overwhelming in many ways. When my siblings and myself were all still living with our parents and after my older brother died, my parents had a phone put in, they had to wait a little while, but when it was put in they had to have a party line and it remained for many years, I don't know that anyone would accept such a thing now. I used to be with BT until about fourteen or so years ago, but once after time, my line was pulled down by some painters and the repair guys had to phone up to see who was providing the line before the could go ahead and do the repair straight away or if it would have to be booked for some other time, luckily they had the order to do it immediately, I'll bet if I was still with BT, I would've had to have waited, and the guy on the phone kind of suggested that. But I do remember when mobile phones were becoming cheaper, more popular and more flexible with PAYG, the sudden choice of mobiles and contracts even with the various mobile providers themselves, seemed like a mountain of choice and I think you get that now with on demand TV. On the other hand, many of the power providers have done a belly flop during this Covid 19 pandemic.

I had to change who I had my household insurance with back in may, as who I had it with since 1980, was no longer offering household insurance, so I had the task of selecting another company so just chose one of the well known lot, that was comparable with what I had, couldn't be doing with trawling through all those that are out there.

Regards Nick.

Edited By Nicholas Farr on 01/01/2022 15:05:38

clogs01/01/2022 15:50:56
626 forum posts
12 photos

we only have a mobile phone now...actually 3......

as for the internet it's by Satelite......2 seperate systems........

We're rural so the gas cooker is propane....

Central heating, has a duel fuel boiler, we use wood sourced locally....

will not give extra money to the tent dwellers of this world......

Car n house plus public liability ins is by our local broker....

Hardest thing about it all, my wife will not use a direct debit which would make easyier...Dohhhh

Peter G. Shaw01/01/2022 17:21:15
1408 forum posts
44 photos


As a matter of personal interest & nothing to do with my OP, why won't your wife use DD's?

Peter G. Shaw

Neil Wyatt01/01/2022 17:25:11
18990 forum posts
734 photos
80 articles

I just visit a single comparison website when I renew anything, on the assumption that going through many brings the law of diminishing returns into play.


Ady101/01/2022 17:45:32
5065 forum posts
734 photos

I always used a broker because when you had to make a claim those guys don't get the insurance runaround and it only cost an extra 10-20 for the service

RMA01/01/2022 20:03:04
313 forum posts
4 photos

I think buying insurance is very different to buying gas and electricity. Premiums are worked out by an opinion of risk, unfortunately done by algorithms these days. Comparison sites only compare companies who pay them, so it's a very limited comparison. Now the law has changed to stop the ridiculous new customer discount, it might be easier and quicker to do comparisons.

When the fuel industry was opened up to all and sundry it was pretty obvious that with over 60 suppliers, all buying the same stuff from the same sources, some would go bust. You can only cut your prices so much!

IMO essential services should be nationalised!

Bazyle01/01/2022 20:19:21
6295 forum posts
222 photos

Gosh if you think renewing annually is hassle just remember the days of paying each utility bill monthly or was it quarterly by cheque, and the milkman every week. Having to go to the bank to get cash to do shopping or buy lunch in the canteen, petrol etc.

Of course there are still a lot of people in the cash economy. You see that at the supermarket when they are queuing for the self service checkouts that haven't got the 'card only' sign up.

Mick B101/01/2022 20:26:50
2157 forum posts
117 photos

This thread risks political shutdown.

Many of us remember stories of pathetic incompetence, restrictive practices and excessive delays from the nationalised utilities of the 1970s, but the way to fix those would've been to resolve the organisation of those industries, not waste the consumers' time trying to strain a signal from the noise of a barrowload of endlessly churning suppliers.

Yes, there's too much choice, and it's our time that's wasted, and big advertising costs for unnecessary comparison industries are generated, which ultimately have to be paid for out of our bills.

Edited By Mick B1 on 01/01/2022 20:27:17

Nigel Graham 201/01/2022 20:55:20
2009 forum posts
27 photos

I won't play ball. I will not use spurious comparison site, switch providers every year, buy a new portable telephone at the same rate.. Why not? Because I do not want the complexity, want coherence, and do not believe I would gain anything!

Bazyle -

I see far more card-paying than cash-paying customers at the staffed tills. Including me.

Let's face it, we are paying for those counter-staff either way, so we may as well do our bit to keep them employed.

One day in my bank, one of the assistants asked me if I'd considered on-line banking. I said I had tried it, could not get it to work, and anyway, I asked, "why are you talking yourself out a job?" She seemed to see my point.

Brian G01/01/2022 21:59:48
835 forum posts
37 photos

Up until now, renewing insurance with the same provider has been severely punished, as they put up the rates for existing customers in order to offer lower rates to new customers thought comparison sites. Theoretically (I'll wait and see how it pans out in practice) it may not be as necessary to change insurers at every renewal as they must now offer existing customers the same prices as new.

Ripping off loyal customers isn't a new thing. More than 25 years ago I found that my father-in-law's building society had a practice of changing the name of their high interest account on a regular basis, and transferring existing customers to a basic account at a much lower rate.

Brian G

pgk pgk01/01/2022 22:18:44
2549 forum posts
293 photos
Posted by Bazyle on 01/01/2022 20:19:21:

Gosh if you think renewing annually is hassle just remember the days of paying each utility bill monthly or was it quarterly by cheque, .....

It kept a sense of value and how it was being spent rather than waving a loan card at a terminal. For folk struggling then contemporary sales must pull them over the brink much more easily. Cheque stubs were a neater record of spend compared to dozens of till receipts and the hassles of on-line access to view statements. Youngsters have less appreciation of the value of money.

Martin Cargill02/01/2022 00:02:26
176 forum posts

Regarding insurance My father used to live in Malaysia, out there they had a system where all of the insurance companies were, by law, required to charge the same for their products. You made your choice based on the service you received from the company of your choice.

Sounds good but it means that the insurance companies agreed the price between themselves, and you can easily work out what that meant....


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