‘Choice’ seems such a beguiling word. It brings with it messages of freedom and opportunity. It carries undertones of a society where the individual is empowered to see how things how they are and make decisions based on clear and readily available information. We used to live in a simpler world with fewer choices. A world in which you got your gas, your electricity, your water, your television and radio from one place that was easy to access.
Then it was perceived that monopolies were bad things; that lack of healthy competition meant that the consumer might be overcharged by profiteering and uncompetitive industries. Trundle in the great God – choice. Break up all those providers, make them compete for our business and we will get better value for our money, won’t we? And if the information we received enabled all of us to see where the best value truly lay, that would undoubtedly be true.
But those fragmented industries are charged with making profits for their shareholders, rather than saving the customer money, so enter the flim-flam men, the three card tricksters who shuffle the facts around so quickly and so impenetrably that finding good value that lasts for more than a few months would defeat everyone except radio and TV moneyman Martin Lewis who has devoted his life to panning for monetary gold in the torrents of misinformation that engulf us today.
But I don’t want to have to spend hours on comparison websites every time I renew any insurance policy, or get a new phone, or pay for my energy supply. But when the difference can be measured in thousands over a year, those who are able to do so, sigh heavily and embark on the great journey into the labyrinth of obfuscation and despair to try and circumvent their traps, snares and delusions.
I am about to change my electricity supplier again because the introductory offer has lapsed and the charges have rocketed. I suppose they hope that the complexity of the task will result in a large proportion giving up and staying put.
I suspect the same fear of brain fade will result in millions looking at the whole Europe In or Out dilemma in a similar way and allowing the status quo to endure rather than immerse themselves in the barrage of information and misinformation we will have to endure between now and June.