Magazine article The Spectator

Back to Square One

Magazine article The Spectator

Back to Square One

Article excerpt

Switching energy suppliers is very much like switching boyfriends. As soon as you do it, the one you just left immediately drops their prices while the one you've switched to starts changing their terms and edging their prices back up again. It's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' conspiracy.

Three years ago, for example, I was stuck in a dead-end relationship when another guy came along and gave me a sales pitch that made my eyes pop out on stalks. He said all the buzz words: marriage; children; Nissan Qashqai (it's a family car). So I switched.

Three years later I have only now been told about the small print. When he said he was very much looking forward to settling down quite soon what he actually meant was that he never intended to settle down ever.

It's only a matter of semantics but it certainly has landed me in a pickle. I was 35 when I met him and the possibility of one of David Cameron's tax breaks for married couples was not completely beyond the bounds of possibility.

Now I can't get to sleep at night for the deafening clunk of the big hand of the you-know-what clock moving inexorably towards midnight while thoughts of all the smug marrieds getting financial perks on top of every other perk they already enjoy - happiness, companionship, vast economies of scale, smugness - haunt my every waking hour. For the first time in my life I understand why a woman might find herself running a key along the side of a sports car.

Bugger, I keep thinking. If only I'd stayed with the other guy, who has of course now got engaged. Although we really did detest each other by the end, I calculate that if I'd stuck it out with him - maybe lived in separate parts of a very large house - I might be looking forward to being welcomed into the moral high-ground club with a little pat on the tax return from the Tories after 6 May.

If I find out in a few months' time that the other one has got married I really will go totally tonto. Not because I am broken-hearted. Because I have been swindled. Taken for a ride. Conned. Defrauded. Cheated out of tax cuts. Agh, my God, it hurts.

I've put up with all sorts of silliness on the basis that if I remained a loyal customer for long enough the odds must surely favour me being rewarded. …

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