"What we have is the "appearance" of a free market, nothing more. Shop around a bit (particularly in utilities) and the monopolies become obvious. "
You are Mad Ed Davey, and I claim my five pounds. Or you are a berk (or both).
Where there are monopoly assets (because the economics will not support duplicate infrastructures) you have government regulation of the monopoly. So that's the case of water, of electricity distribution networks, gas pipes, rail networks. These companies are very highly controlled by regulators like OFGEM, OFWAT and ORR. And that control isn't just price control, it's actually control of the investment levels, investment objectives, service levels, even the financing of the companies. I have spent many years working for regulated companies, and there's no free hand for managers or investors, no excess profits, not vast inefficiency, and no cartels. And the recent price increase in energy are not wholesale electricity market price rises (these have been stagnant, and nobody wants to invest in new plant), but because of global primary energy prices (the inputs), weakening exchange rates, and government impositions to pay for their stupid, useless renewable toys, and to create a duplicate welfare state through mandated company handouts to the officially poor.
Where there is the potential for competing assets, as in most telecoms, electricity generation & supply, or gas supply, then they have to pay the same for using the regulated monopoly assets, and there other costs will converge because being more expensive in a commodity market is not a sustainable position. They also use broadly similar technologies and suppliers, operate within the same environment and legal constraints, source money from the same capital markets, and offer the market similar levels of commodiity service. Everybody complains that they want better service from utilities, but when push comes to shove people won't pay for what they say they want, so there's little to choose between them.
This is actually a market that works. Now take mobile handsets, and there's a market that doesn't work. The costs of assembling a iPhone are near the same as those of a Nexus 4 or a Lumia 925. So why is the sim free price range from les than £200 to well over £400? Is that a market that works well for consumers? Lots of choice and a range of prices? Actually that's a market that doesn't work as well, because the use of brand and low tangibility differentiators keeps the market from operating as well, enabling Apple to make huge margins selling essentially the same phone as the other two mentioned.