“Much complexity has been deliberately created”

More on the theme of intentional complexity.

Many of the products we buy today are, by their nature, complicated. If you want to buy a television or a car or a computer, you are faced with a bewildering range of types, sizes and optional features.

Such complexity means some consumers will inevitably pay more than they need because they make mistakes or do not take the time to understand the options. Some complexity is unavoidable, but much of the complexity consumers experience is not.

For its consumers, energy is the simplest of products. All electricity or gas on the public network is the same. The only material difference between providers is the length of time it takes them to respond to complaints about your bill. The only persuasive claim a salesman can make is that his electricity or gas is cheaper. The time he spends trying to persuade you of this is a clue that it probably isn’t. But to establish the truth may require a computer.

Much complexity has been deliberately created, to encourage consumers to pay more than they need, or expected. Or to reduce the likelihood that they will switch to another supplier. …


The problem is less the weakness of competition than its effectiveness. Whatever one supplier does, others are forced to follow if they are to protect their markets and their returns.