Why We Sign Those Secret Deals
Out here in the trenches, Professor William Shepherd's attempts to correlate anti-competitive pricing strategies with market dominance will take a while to sink in, mostly because the politics seem to get in the way of clear thinking. While his article ("Anti-Competitive Impacts of Secret Strategic Pricing in the Electricity Industry," Feb. 15, 1997, p. 24.) indicates that Ohio has been one of the states willing to question the effect of secret discounts on emerging electricity competition, efforts in the Buckeye State to take on this issue have been complicated intentionally by utilities that are ready, willing and able to use their political power as readily as they use their market power.
The opportunity to sign a secret discount deal can place a large energy user in an awkward position. The external and internal pressure of global competition requires that companies take steps to be competitive today. Moreover, Ohio's elected officials have not delivered the tools that customers require to address electricity price and service objectives. For example, large-industrial customers have been urging Ohio to "do the right thing" since 1991, supporting customer choice legislation to give all customers the benefits of effective competition, introduced recently for the third time in Ohio.