And secondly, fair prices. Much of the ‘logic’ of the way markets have developed in recent years is to move towards ‘risk (or cost) pricing’ and away from shared risk. Some of the assumptions behind this are extremely dodgy: The majority of high cost lenders claim that their premium prices are based on the ‘risk’ of lending to low income customers… any yet, when customers pay week after week, year after year, the cost doesn’t go down. But fundamentally, is it socially (or morally) acceptable to operate ‘cost’ pricing models which force the poorest to pay most? How can companies square all their talk in recent years of corporate social responsibility, with charging their poorest customers the most?
Lack of access to the best online prices, bank accounts and managing their budget via cash all adds together to give the poorest families the worst deals around. The result is a poverty premium that costs the poorest families more for the same energy, cookers and household items, credit and insurance than their wealthier peers.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a low-income census tract where a large number of residents are more than a mile from a grocery store…. [L]ess than 4.5 percent of the U.S. population [falls into that category].
And if individual businesses are unwilling to offer products to low income consumers at fair prices (not least by claiming they can’t do so if their competitors don’t), then is there not a role for market intervention?