Npower and my broken nose

I’m onosmic.

If you don’t know what that is (few do) it means I’ve got almost no sense of smell. Onosmia is to noses what blindness is to eyes. It’s not much of a problem in everyday life, but sometimes things in the salad tray go pretty stinky, and I don’t know about it until my girlfriend visits and hurls when she opens the fridge door.

Onosmia can be caused by a few things: there’s a genetic cause, or it can be caused by a head injury or a badly broken nose. I haven’t broken my nose badly, but I have broken it regularly. And at the age of about 8 I carefully steered the front-wheel of my bicycle into a grid, where it lodged, and catapulted me over the handlebars into a stone-walled cottage. The residents came out to shout at whoever was kicking a ball against the wall, found me in a heap, and I spent 4 days in hospital being observed. I didn’t find out until 20 years later that I’d broken my skull, but by then it was too late to do my own observations about its effect.

So I don’t know for sure if that cottage killed my sense of smell, or just contributed to something that has got worse over the years. It probably didn’t help that when I boxed, I led with my nose; and when I played rugby, I stopped the opposing team with my nose. And even now I somehow manage to get it broken occasionally: only last month my loving girlfriend lovingly broke it a bit, in something she described as an “accident”, whilst reminding me that I was asking for it.

I was definitely asking for it. I am right now, frankly.

But my nose gets no better. On the whole, I categorise every type of smell as follows:

  1. Absolutely no smell at all (the vast majority of things)
  2. Fruity (some citrus fruits, roasting veg, my girlfriend’s feet after a day walking around at work)
  3. Bullshit

In the “bullshit” category you will find things like this email from npower. The campaigning website, 38 degrees, recently asked me to sign a petition castigating npower for their corporate tax avoidance (they’ve been funneling profits through Malta). 38 degrees also invited me to switch to another supplier, which I gladly did (Ecotricity, since you ask).

The next day I got an email from Npower, hand-crafted by their PR department without reference to any kind of truth, and signed with the rubber stamp of their CEO. My crippled nose limped into action, and after checking I hadn’t been emailed a citrus fruit or a foot, I realised I was smelling purest manure. I had a lot of fun sending a reply…

From: Paul Massara, npower CEO

I’m sorry to hear you want to leave us!

Dear Dick Graceless

Thank you for taking the time to send me a message via 38 Degrees – every one of our customers’ views is important to me.

It’s unfortunate, but if you’ve made a decision to leave us based on what you’ve heard in the news about our tax affairs, then I probably can’t change your mind. That’s a fact of life.
However, after reading this email, I hope you’ll spare a moment to consider that not everything you read in the news is true. The real truth is, npower does not avoid paying tax.

I’ll explain what’s going on.

HMRC reduced our tax bill between 2009 and 2011 for two simple reasons:

  1. Over 6 years, we invested over £3 billion in new power stations that helped create jobs and keep the lights on across the UK. This financial contribution is recognised in that some of that investment can be offset against our tax bill.
  2. And, quite simply, our taxable profits were lower than we expected them to be, which – like any other business in that situation – meant we didn’t have to pay as much corporation tax during that period.

In many ways, I’d like as many people as possible to send me an email and then read this response. You’re entitled to make your decision based on the facts, rather than the distorted information that has been circulating online recently.

With that in mind, I’ve recently asked our team to put some more information about the way we pay tax on our website –

We’re proud of our reputation. We have absolutely nothing to hide.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Paul Massara
npower CEO

From: Dick Graceless, bloke who can still smell bullshit


You must think I was born yesterday. It’s contemptible that your avoidance of fair and reasonable tax steals from the society that feeds you. It is no better than common theft, leaving Britain bereft of funds and immiserating the lives of the very people who provide your huge, endlessly growing profits.

But that, it seems, is not enough for you. Showing no remorse, you compound this blatant, obvious theft with a further lies: Npower, along with most large corporations, are stealing from society, and bleating about how hard they have it.

Your actions are those of a psychopath: lying, manipulating, having absolutely no conscience, and perfectly willing to starve or freeze the people around you to gain your own ends: even more massive profits for a 1% executive class that already owns over 50% of the UK’s assets. And all the time, in the service of lucre, you take more and more environmentally destructive actions that endanger this planet’s ability to support life.

If this email really is for “executive complains”, I hope it reaches that lofty, isolated, coddled executive class. And I hope it makes an impression on the tiny, wizened organ that passes for a heart in the corporate bosom. Your theft and lies disgust me, and millions others. And this mealy-mouthed attempt to evade blame would be laughable if it wasn’t so utterly tragic for the nation and the planet.

Rot in hell, you sociopathic, environment-destroying pack of thieves and vultures.

Very, very sincerely

Dick Graceless


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