“You’ve been with us a number of years; you may be able to save money by arranging cover elsewhere….” The phrase was buried in my insurance renewal letter. The scandal of unscrupulous insurance companies penalising regular customers by ratcheting up their cost resulted in legislation that now means they have to tell you to shop around.

So I did and, after half an hour or so surfing the internet, so I managed to halve the cost and obtain better cover on my house insurance.

I guess I should now do the same for my utilities, water, gas, electricity and phone. And probably every other ‘service’ I buy; my mobile phone, internet supplier, car, travel and pet insurance, central heating and car breakdown, household appliance guarantees, airline tickets, bank accounts and credit cards… the list goes on…

And I’m not fooled by so-called ‘price comparison’ websites that profit from the fees paid to them by favourable suppliers.

I can’t be the only one who finds that sorting out household ‘stuff’ takes more and more time; I find myself yearning for the good old days.

I remember the time when if you wanted a phone, you contacted the Post Office (the GPO), filled out a form, dropped it in at your local branch and after an inexplicable delay of several months, an engineer came, installed your phone, and allowed you to choose from one of the four colours he happened to have in the van.

Insurance was simple, my father worked for an insurance company so we always went there, but others could visit high street brokers who would shop around for the best deal. Travel agents would book your holiday; you tossed a coin to choose between the RAC or AA (both cost the same); pet insurance was unheard of and when the central heating broke down, you found a plumber from the Yellow Pages. Gas and electricity prices were regulated.

OK, so maybe my transition into grumpy old man from grumpy young man via grumpy middle aged man has been seamless. But the few quid that I managed to save on my insurance came at a price that’s now paid by the elderly, the confused and others who struggle to cope with all this day to day ‘stuff’. Consumer choice is no choice at all if you’re unable to access it. With power of attorney, I was able to help my late mother make the most of her pension by dealing with her ‘stuff’ on her behalf when it all became too much for her; that support isn’t available to everyone.

For many the “shop around online” choice is illusory; it favours a computer savvy minority with time on their hands. While the rich go to the web, the weakest, as ever, go to the wall.