British Gas: Fury at price rise 'fat cats' and Twitter Q&A

Company's 9.2 per cent price hike infuriates customers, but #AskBG forum makes things worse

LAST UPDATED AT 11:16 ON Fri 18 Oct 2013

THAT hissing sound isn't a leaky gas pipe, it's the sound of thousands of British Gas customers venting their frustration at what the Daily Mirror calls the company's "crippling price hikes".

Britons have taken to Twitter en masse to express their anger over a 9.2 per cent price hike that will add another £131 a year to a typical energy bill. The average household will now pay £1,471 a year to light and heat their home, although regional variations mean some customers will see their bills top £1,500, ITV reports.

British Gas insists the price rises were "not taken lightly" and are driven by three factors over which it has little control. They are: the increased cost of buying energy on "the global market"; the rising cost of delivering energy via pipes and wires and the cost of "the government's social and environmental schemes". Such arguments convinced... almost no-one.

The press has two British Gas executives in its crosshairs over the matter. First there is Chris Weston, the managing director of the British Gas' owner Centrica – aka the "fat cat boss" - who has reportedly refused to forgo a £2m bonus despite the "misery" his company is inflicting on less-well-off Britons, says the Mirror.

There is enmity too for Ian Peters, British Gas' head of residential energy. He faces a "fierce backlash", says the Daily Telegraph, after telling worried customers they could avoid higher bills by using less energy. "The amount you pay depends not on the price, but on how much gas and electricity you use," Peters announced.

A British Gas spokesman leapt to the executive's defence today, insisting that he meant that struggling customers could take advantage of "energy efficiency schemes". He was, in no way, echoing former British Gas boss Jake Ulrich, who "five years ago triggered a nationwide row by insisting shivering customers could always put on another jumper".

British Gas tried diffuse the situation yesterday by holding a Q&A session on Twitter. Hosted by its customer service director, Bert Pijls, and using the hashtag AskBG, it became a forum for "thousands to air their grievances with the energy giant", writes Metro. A user posting under the name @TiernanDouie asked: "Is it true your top shareholders heat their homes by burning loads of £100 notes they have from excessive profits?" Another enquired: "How hard is it to sleep at night with Cameron's foot on your head, and the stench of dead pensioners in your nostrils?"

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones tweeted, sarcastically, that the #AskBG idea from @britishgas was "certain to win all sorts of social media marketing awards".

Politicians, relieved, no doubt, that someone else had become the target of press and public enmity, lined up to express their concern at the price rises.

David Cameron said he was "very disappointed" with the announcement and told customers they should switch to another supplier. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy minister, agreed that it was "very disappointing news". Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has promised to freeze energy prices if his party wins the next election, was too busy scoring political points to be "disappointed".

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Time for consumers to enforce a total boycott
of one energy supplier,bankrupt one company and the rest might pay attention,British gas seems the obvious target,I'm going to switch today.

...this is a Godsend for Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Ed Davey et al. Government and EU taxation policies are responsible for the vast majority of the cost of electricity and gas to the consumers.

We cannot, unilaterally, reduce the excessive burden of taxation on our utilities because Europe simply will NOT allow it! For that moron, Ed Davey, to simply advocate "shopping around" is breathtakingly deceitful and arrogant.

The Lib Dems' (and, before them, Ed Miliband's) policies of "Green" subsidies, coupled with the idiocy of ploughing ahead with yet more, heavily subsidised and inefficient wind turbines, beggars belief - the Green lobby is largely responsible for this current predicament and Ed Davey and Ed Miliband know it full well.

"Shopping Around" will solve nothing - the energy suppliers, within certain narrow parameters, are in the real world - they have to pay the market price for the product; any price reductions that they can pass on, of course, would be necessary and welcome - but they, rather than Cameron or Ed Davey or Miliband, operate in the real world.

...Hello Les - have you switched yet? Don't go to EDF - they regard your personal, current account, as their own private property - keep an eye on their DD deductions - I am a single occupant - energy saving lights - very little use of electricity - I discovered that EDF had helped themselves to over £700 for one quarter's electricity "usage" - I protested and they mumbled something about "estimates" - perhaps Ed Davey, Camoron, Clegg and the rest of that unworldly bunch of boy - blunders should acquaint themselves with the real world before pontificating to the rest of us.

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