Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Merging Into One

I’ve recently heard about a couple of companies that are about to be ‘swallowed up’ by larger ones, which is bound to have an effect on consumer choice.

The Competitions and Markets Authority (formerly the Competition Commission, in turn formerly The Monopolies and Mergers Commission) is supposedly meant to strengthen competition in the marketplace, thus protecting consumer choice. Why is it then that in some areas our choices are becoming increasingly more limited?

One of the big issues at the moment, I feel, is that of mobile phone providers. I used to be a customer of Orange, which merged with TMobile (referred to in our household as Torange), which then became part of EE. It has now been announced that EE are to be bought out by BT – just the company I do not want to provide my service!

One of my concerns is that my current, excellently priced SIM deal will change. Originally taken out with Orange, but honoured by EE (although that stopped providing it to new customers) my immediate concern is that this will be scrapped. But from a wider point of view, I realise that if I’m not happy with the new service, there will be very little choice of other providers available. With it appearing that O2 is about to be taken over by the owner of the ‘3’ network, that leaves only Vodafone as a mobile provider on its own.

With our choices of mobile provider basically down to three, where is the incentive for the remaining companies to offer the best deals? With competition rapidly dwindling it certainly makes their life easier, but not ours!

Also in the news is the plan for Poundland to buy out 99p Stores – another bad move I believe. Certainly in my area, the 99p Stores are much better than the Poundland equivalents, stocking better products in a more welcoming environment. Of course, that may not be the case nationwide, but it’s still nice to be given the choice of where to shop.

Time and again shops and companies are being taken over by larger concerns, reducing competition and limiting our choices. Competition is healthy for businesses. It encourages them to deliver the best possible customer service, product ranges and consumer care. Insufficient competition can create complacency, resulting in poorer deals for customers and severe lack of service and care.

I’ve always believed that if I don’t get good service from a company, I should take my custom elsewhere. But if my choices are limited, where do I turn?

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