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About media framing • (written by Brian Dean)

“Consumers too lazy”

Consumers too lazySept 17, 2011 – Today’s Times leads with the “news” that a minister has an opinion about lazy consumers. Specifically, Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, says that “Consumers must take some of the blame for high energy bills because they cannot be bothered to shop around for the best deals”.

Why is this front-page news for the Times? Presumably it’s not meant as an attack on Huhne in particular, otherwise the headline would be something like: ‘HUHNE – “STRUGGLING FAMILIES ARE JUST LAZY”.’

The millions of shoppers who glance at the Times headline today will see a message about LAZY CONSUMERS. It’s not the result of a poll or a scientific study. It’s someone’s opinion, and it’s a frame. Alternative frames might be LACK OF TRANSPARENCY in fuel costs, or CONSUMERS OVERCHARGED, (which convey something about market failures), etc. Another frame is REGULATOR SHORT OF POWER (the Times ran with this in a 2008 piece). Ofgem (the regulator) talks of CONSUMERS BAMBOOZLED by complex and unfair pricing. Labour focuses on PROFITEERING ENERGY COMPANIES.

But here we have LAZY CONSUMERS. So, the market works just fine – it’s the lazy consumers that cause the problems. How about: OVERWORKED CONSUMERS? That’s not an established frame (people are overworked, consumers simply shop). But it might help us to appreciate why many “consumers” “cannot be bothered” to “shop around” for the “best deals”. After all, it’s HARD WORK FATHOMING ENERGY PROVIDER BS.

Alternative headlines:

Written by NewsFrames

September 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Headlines, Times

2 Responses

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  1. An “entertaining headline for sure. I noticed that it is impossible to move to the cheapest utility provider if you have an outstanding amount on your account. You have to be able to pay your debt before you can move on which is not possible for those who most need the (relatively small) savings. You also need a bank willing to give you a current account so that you can pay by direct debit to get the best savings (often 10% off). You can’t do this if you have a bad credit rating or if you were rich and went bankrupt or if you have unpaid bank loans etc.
    Much of the above, particularly the bad credit rating, does not happen without significant activity on the part of the bill payer. Hardly a sign of laziness.
    It is all too easy to believe that people in debt or in poorly paid jobs are inattentive to the issue of “looking for the best price” but there really is a poverty trap. The less money you have the fewer opportunities there are to save money. No bulk discounts, no bonus for direct debit, no Internet discount (no credit card or possibly no computer/Internet connection), no exposure to offers (junk mail is usually targeted at you through your purchases).
    There may be some unfortunate people who are so lazy that they fall into this poverty trap but most are trying their best to get out of it. It’s not a nice place to be, take it from someone with unpaid bills, no bank account, bad debts and a soon to be cut of Internet con


    September 25, 2011 at 1:03 am

  2. Some excellent points, there, itsthebishop – thanks.


    September 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

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