Monday 26 June 2017

Charlie Weston: Poor switching levels mean that we really are our own worst enemies

'But just why are we so reluctant to switch, and stop providers of essential household services making mugs of us?' (Stock photo)
'But just why are we so reluctant to switch, and stop providers of essential household services making mugs of us?' (Stock photo)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

We are losing a fortune to overcharging companies that spin out marketing guff about how good their offers are. The losses are evident from the fact that there has been a fall in the number of people switching providers of common household services.

Research commissioned by the State's consumer watchdog, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, found just four out of 10 respondents said they switched service provider in the last year.

This is despite the fact that savings of up to €360 a year can be made by aggressively seeking out the best deals. The inverse of this is that misguided loyalty is costing us €360 a year. A misplaced sense of loyalty is particularly prevalent among farmers and those over the age of 65.

But just why are we so reluctant to switch, and stop providers of essential household services making mugs of us?

The research found the main reasons people had not switched were difficulties making price comparisons, and the fact they distrust the offers. A lack of motivation and a "couldn't-be-bothered" attitude also play a part.

Take motor insurance. It was the most popular service to be switched, with 28pc making the move. That is hardly surprising given that premiums are up by 60pc in the last three years.

But most did not switch. The main reason cited by non-switchers is a belief there is not much difference between the various suppliers, according to the research, conducted on behalf of the Commission among 1,001 adults.

A number of non-switchers said they were either too busy or had not bothered to check if they could get better value.

All told, half of non-switchers said they were either too busy, not bothered, or could see no difference in the offers available.

Despite premiums shooting through the roof for car cover, a lack of motivation to get a better deal seems to be bedevilling us.

Granted there are legitimate issues around the complexity of comparing different offers. Just 6pc of consumers switched health insurer, despite premiums surging in the past number of years. With more than 360 different health plans from the three providers, no wonder people are confused.

Price-comparison sites - such as Bonkers.ie and Switcher.ie - take the hard work out of switching, and brokers such as Dermot Goode at TotalHealthCover.ie demystify health insurance.

But the bottom line is, if we do not make the effort on switching then we really only have ourselves to blame.

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