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Customers call for cheaper energy bills



calls for cheaper energy billsFamilies, consumer groups and unions have teamed up to level their disgust at a 23% profit rise at utilities provider British Gas, with calls that the money should be getting passed on to ordinary people in the form of cheaper energy bills.

Described by many as "shocking", the huge £345 million windfall came off the back of last year's significant price rises to everyday families like ourselves, and critics are convinced that in reality it will be only a special few in the gas giant's boardroom who will reap the benefits.

Put under the microscope, this means that an extra £1.9 million was taken by the Centrica-owned company in the six months to the end of June - an average £3.64 a month from each of its 15.8 million residential accounts.

Price hikes

Last August Centrica raised electricity and gas tariffs by 16% and 18% respectively.

It blamed higher wholesale costs, and now claims the recent rise in profits is only so stark because it is compared with the previous year, when it held off on raising prices due to a cold winter and subsequent high demand.

But this isn't washing with families who are accusing directors and executives at Centrica of profiteering while thousands struggle in fuel poverty.

Unison's head of business and environment Mike Jeram said: "British Gas seems to have side-stepped austerity Britain and passed the pain of the double-dip recession onto their domestic customers.

"How can it be right that families across the UK are suffering from pay freezes, job cuts and struggling to pay their fuel bills, at the same time as the company is posting a 23% profit hike?

"We need strong regulation and Government action to protect families and pensioners from profiteering."

So what now?

Earlier this year, Centrica hinted of further price hikes after it warned its energy costs were continuing to rise, with wholesale gas prices 15% higher for next winter and other costs set to add £50 to the cost of supplying the average household this year.

Meanwhile, Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, said: "These soaring profits show that British Gas could and should cut its prices ahead of winter.

"This would go some way to acknowledging the pressure customers are under as they struggle to afford their household bills."

Consumers have been struggling to cope with soaring energy prices in recent years, which have been one of the main drivers in inflation and have pushed the average dual fuel bill up to £1,310 a year - more than £200 higher than two years ago.

Centrica claims to control just 15% of a customer's bill through its operating costs and profit margins.





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