Selling short in the energy market – symptom or disease

Have you ever suspected your Energy Company of gaming the rules? Consider this: A energy retailer in NSW has argued they can remain silent on an energy supply transfer and then penalise the customer with adjusted early termination fees. Small business is particularly vulnerable to this activity. Have you been affected? Speak up now.

We write this after a story recently ran that was commissioned by the St Vincent De Paul, 28 May 2014, ‘Energy Retailer not Adequately Disclosing Additional Fees’. It would seem some success has been the outcome. You may find similar matters very common for small business and the protection is less clear. It also follows that small business can be classified under the electricity rules as large when under company rule they are small business. The tactics of taking advantage of a customer is part of our story.

Consider the retailers argument: Section 6.10 AEMO rules prevent them objecting to Transfers in NSW. A wonderful twist that Tony the Weasel would be proud of for sure. What this retailer then did was objected to a ‘to the market to transfer DCL’ (Form called a CR1000) and then withdrew the objection. They then remained silent on their intention to levy the charge. In one instance we know of near $10,000 is the adjusted fee charged.

We find it difficult to think other than they are gaming the rules and defining as it suites them. They are embarking on ‘it may be immoral, but is not illegal’ game at the expense of a trust in what we say not what we do.

If you want more evidence consider that the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) web site is showing up to 85% increase on complaints with energy retailers in 2013, benchmarked over 2012 figures. Just imagine what 2014 must have in store for the Ombudsman.

If we go back to the reference instance – it was claimed they broke a deemed supply agreement and fees are payable. The retailer then ignored requests for transparency of the charges and to explain how is was reasonable to claim so much money. The retailer even ignored that the new retailer offered to give back the customer without penalty to any party. It became obvious the old retailer only want the money and not the customer.

What is wrong with that – big business only says show me the money! We are all nothing but an asset.

Our frustration is such that when we looked for an explanation it seems most feasible that the retailer is actually short in the market for black energy. This term is where it is not renewable or green sources. In effect a panic that they are overexposed to the renewable market because of the current government sending out signals ‘old king coal’ will reign for some time. It follows that the amount of contracted energy into the future and the books determine the risk of that business. It would seem the retailer does not want you to consume black energy, nor do they want you to export renewable energy – you might notice if had considered putting in Solar Array, either covertly or overtly you might be discouraged.

If you accept this short sell idea you could consider the behaviour of finding reason to add fees to your exit is akin to double dipping. They want you to pay for what they do not have, or they have already sold it elsewhere. Possibly this matter should go before the AER, they are quoted as saying they have an eye on these sort of things.

If you check out the AER site and the government site www.energymadeeasy.gov.au you will notice they recommend you lay a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON). If you do so you should definitely know your wants for any outcome.

One want we recommend you consider is consistent and effective communication is your right.

 

Simplicity, Obviousness and Human Factors with Windows

Why take the chance of alienating the faithful? It is possible that Microsoft must take a chance, to reach the new wave of technophiles. After being the masters of obviousness since 1987 “Microsoft Corp.’s net income fell 22 percent in the latest quarter as it deferred revenue from the sale of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system to PC makers”. It also comes at a time PC sales in general took a dive. You could argue taking the chance is about the need to improve the bottom line and the magic metric is the ability to scale beyond its own organisation as we know it. Windows 8 is aimed to be the magic system that will perform better for the company in the long term.

However as well redesigned this system is and planned as truly elegant, indicators are they could be affected by black swan events (improbable happenings – left field whams – disasters). Critics are saying in the quest for simplicity, they sacrificed obviousness for the joy of technophiles. But, alas thus rejoice may be the ultimate human factors conundrum: The relationships among windows users and the machines and processes they operate – lost.

To put this in perspective on June 19, 2012 co2land posted “Culture of sustainability in a cloud” and the story focused on Apple’s ability to use a robust metric to reduce risk and having a communication platform that can be maintained throughout any event. More recently, it is suggested Microsoft is trying too hard to show they can trump the software market with their own niche and make it with Windows 8, make it with simplicity. Interface and form simplicity with the operating system platform that is portable from PC to Tablet to Smart Phone.

So why is it even before the release date, reported to be 26 October 2012, that so many are critical of how they put at risk the most important following of the brand: The obvious relationship loyal users have between the machines and processes they make? They may have underestimated human factors!

A group called REALInnovation network (a voice of the network is www.triz-journal.com), says human factors is an entire arena that has become a major area of focus. As time goes on, we change and our expectation is the changes around us will make it easier to interact with machinery and how we see and interpret information. It is taken for granted that it is the ergonomic and practical need we have to aspire. There is a classical contradiction with this as we have all experienced that providing a new one size fits all is simple and appealing, and yet at the same time we must forgo access to our obvious need to be comfortable with what we currently know and use.

In the context of this discussion, you will know many professionals, stay at home people, students, and tradespeople that are comfortable with the PC and are happy with the tradition of the software – once you know the fundamentals you go from generation to generation as steps to a better place.

In Microsoft’s defence they need the innovation, and shifting to simplicity is improving practices. However, improved practices include a balance of simplicity and obviousness. In this new release they may be pushing the paradigm to simplicity in a way that will leave the traditional Windows PC user alienated and lost!

So when we use our ‘tools to communicate’ is it simplicity we crave or obviousness? “Take this example blogger Chris Pirillo posted a YouTube video of his father using a preview version of Windows 8 for the first time. As the elder Pirillo tours the operating system with no help from his son, he blunders into the old “Desktop” environment and can’t figure out how to get back to the Start tiles. (Hint: Move the mouse cursor into the top right corner of the screen, then swipe down to the “Start” button that appears, and click it. On a touch screen, swipe a finger in from the right edge of the screen to reveal the Start button.) The four-minute video has been viewed more than 1.1 million times since it was posted in March”. “There are many things that are hidden,” said Raluca Budiu, a user experience specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. “Once users discover them, they have to remember where they are. People will have to work hard and use this system on a regular basis.” In defence of obviousness “Michael Mace, the CEO of Silicon Valley software start-up Cera Technology and a former Apple employee, has used every version of Windows since version 2.0. Each one, he said, built upon the previous one. Users didn’t need to toss out their old ways of doing things when new software came along. Windows 8 ditches that tradition of continuity, he said. “Most Windows users don’t view their PCs as being broken to begin with. If you tell them ‘Oh, here’s a new version of Windows, and you have to relearn everything to use it,’ how many normal users are going to want to do that?” he asked. “I am very worried that Microsoft may be about to shoot itself in the foot spectacularly. Windows 8 is so different, he said, that many Windows users who aren’t technophiles will feel lost”. “It was very difficult to get used to,” he said. “I have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, and they never got used to it. They decided, and: ‘We’re just going to use Mom’s computer.” – the old one.

CO2Land org extends to Microsoft the wishes that they have made the right decision to change. However, the cold turkey approach appears odd in that they do not plan to cushion the impact of such a radical introduction, and it is further posted that computer companies have no choice but to make Windows 8 standard on practically all PCs that are sold to consumers. If we take this literally, after 26 Oct you have no choice you will go for simplicity (Windows 8).

Co2Land org source for quotes comes from “Early look at Windows 8 baffles consumers”

By PETER SVENSSON

— Oct. 19

EOI – the label of convenience at risk

Calling for an Expression of Interest (EOI) gives the impression of progressive policy, but ‘paused development’ is often the result. A high risk for innovation and innovators to participate is the loss of Intellectual Property (IP). In more recent times it is common for government to test reactions to hard issues that are deemed to be important, and there is a belief finding acceptance of ‘real’ truth of the purpose – the use of EOI to assign work to institutions that have been otherwise denied funding at the expense of genuine innovation. Legally this is acceptable, but the morals are questionable when you consider that the ideas come from innovation and the innovators and they are at risk of loss of IP. Before participating in EOI invitations, the best defence could be to better understand Intellectual Property Law – starting with 101.

CO2Land org can give numerous examples of brilliant ideas. Many of these fail to be taken up because the main need was not correctly evaluated. In short a market was either not ready or the opportunity for the market to mature was outside the timeframe to sustain a reasonable return to run a business.  The carbon market is a very good example of brilliant ideas and correct intentions and misreading the timeframes. It follows that the space is a long way from being mature and it is complex as we have green markets, carbon markets and clean markets and a lot of individuals and entities wanting to be in the place where it is seen to be happening.

When we have a commodity we are well protected by our reputation and brand and the profile of what is offered carries warnings on ethical behaviours and legislation for protection. It is acceptable for the society to do this especially where the standards are deficient or omit adequate definition of the goods or services. Despite all this, as an innovator, it is very difficult to protect yourself and your intellectual property. Why? Because most participants establish their trademark/logo believing it is not necessary to establish reputation in the right of the mark. If someone comes along and does a better job of using the trademark or borrowed a look of your trademark to show a better use of it – they have the reputation not you. Also it is important to consider a reputation is not a single dimension it can be words with the addition of pictures, sounds, smells, colours and shapes.  Another question related to trade marks is different entities in different classes of specific goods and services need to be named in the specific classes. It would be prudent to check this matter out if you are moving from one market opportunity to another!

Starting up 101 – Intellectual Property (IP) is just a label of convenience! IP is a number of things that range from subject matter to rights. IP falls into categories in order to get rights and longevity over those rights. The significance of the difference makes the difference in the context of enforcing rights. Conversely you cannot enforce rights you do not have.

In relation to EOI – it could be argued you are permitting others to use or exploit your IP. Before participating you should take the matter up with a specialist IP Lawyer.

Background of what is IP in practice (Australia):

IP Matter Process to approve IP Type Definite Time
Innovation/Inventions yes Patents Yes
Genuine confidential and trade secrets no Trade Secrets and confidential information (not trivial) no – but you must maintain secrecy/confidentiality
Plant varieties yes Plant breeders rights yes
Visual features of a product yes Registered design yes
Signs distinguishing goods or services provided yes Registered trade mark Rollover by renewal fees paid
Original works and aligned subject matter (written down ideas) no Copyrights yes
Original layouts of semiconductor circuits no Circuit layout rights yes