Dysfunctional Electricity Company Websites

Published on 21 August 2003 in , , ,

It’s been barely six months with them, but I’m leaving my electricity supplier, Amerada.

The reason is that Amerada has been taken over by Powergen. Today I recieved a letter telling me this, and that my electricity price is "changing". A quick tot up on the calculator showed it was getting more expensive (obviously!). Under Powergen’s new rates, I’d be paying an extra £7 on my last quarterly bill, and that was for the the months May to August when I don’t have the heating on! No thank you!

However an even better reason for leaving Amerada is that they want to move Amerada customers over to the Powergen website. It’s apparently "Simple and easy to use"

If you can get into it anyway.

Amerada’s website was a tad slow, but it happily worked on both Mozilla Firebird and Opera – the two browsers I use the most.

Not so Powergen. Visiting its website in Firebird I was confronted with:

"We have detected that you are running a browser not supported by this website.

"We currently support Microsoft Internet Explorer (Version 5.0 or above) and Netscape Navigator (Version 7.02 or above)."

Screen shot of Powergen’s error page.

Spot the muppet who can’t code a browser detect properly. Sadly it’s something that happens far too often… For those of you not familiar with Firebird, it should be stated here and now that Firebird uses the same core engine as Netscape 7. Indeed it uses a better version of the engine than Netscape 7. Everything Netscape 7 can do, Mozilla Firebird can.

Just to prove whoever coded Powergen’s website really didn’t know what they were doing, here’s the killer line:

"Your Current Browser: Netscape

"Your Current Version: 0.6

Screen shot of Powergen’s error page.

Yep, it was telling me I was running a version of Netscape that if it did ever exist, was probably 8 years old.

Although it did gracefully tell me that:

"Whilst not officially supported the site can also be used with Opera (Version 7.20 or above) and Konqueror (Version 3.1.1 or above)."

Now there’s two interesting things about that statement.

  1. they actually advertise Konqueror compatibility – it’s the first commercial website I can remember ever seeing that.
  2. they support a version of Opera that you can’t download.

Whilst it’s great that Powergen have a website that works in Opera (which is my browser of choice), there is a fundamental flaw. Take a look at this screen shot from part of Opera’s website. Taken today it lists the latest versions you can download:

A view of the office.

The latest browser versions from Opera. Now where is Opera 7.2?

Funnily enough the latest browser is 7.11. Powergen will provide access to Opera users only if they use a web browser that you can’t even get yet!

Now I’ve been to plenty of websites where they tell you do ‘upgrade’ to IE4, but never have I been told to upgrade to a browser that isn’t even available! Now that’s what I call ‘powered thinking’!

So who to get my electricity from…

Having worked out that Powergen’s website is just slightly lacking, and that they were going to make my bill higher, I popped over to USwitch.com to check out my options. Alas my soon to be defunct tarrif with Amerada was the second cheapest available, meaning that there was only one company that would save me money.

That was Basic Power. Basic by name, basic by nature. Call me funny though, but I couldn’t sign up with an electricity company whose website looked like it had been produced in Microsoft Word. On viewing the source code, it appeared they had.

Call me a snob, but there you have it. As a corporate image, black text on a white background doesn’t really inspire as a brand. Plus you have to pay in advance for your power and that’s too much hassle.

Sailing on the Atlantic.

In the end, I have decided to go with Atlantic Electric and Gas. They’re only a little more expensive than Amerada have been, and their website hasn’t been made in Word. It also works in Opera and Firebird, although does have a pointless Flash animation on it…