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|Britain's biggest power firm is set to
unveil record annual profits of £2billion as families struggle to
pay their highest-ever winter fuel bills.
Quarterly bills averaging £413 will be sent to British Gas’s
16million customers in the next few weeks – up 43 per cent on last
year. And the next bills after that in the spring will soar to an
Last night MPs and consumer watchdogs slammed the firm’s owner
Centrica for making the profit – up £100million on last year and the
equivalent of £225,000-an-hour – while failing to pass on sharp cuts
in wholesale gas prices to customers.
David Orr of the National Housing Federation, which represents
housing associations across the UK, said: “British Gas has
shamelessly ripped off millions of households for years by
overcharging for gas and electricity. Ministers must levy a windfall
tax on suppliers, with the proceeds being used to help people in
British Gas customers are paying £1,322 a year for gas and
electricity. But watchdogs believe suppliers could afford to slash
bills by a fifth. Labour MP Fabian Hamilton said: “They were quick
to raise prices when the wholesale price of gas was rising. Yet when
prices came down, energy bills did not.”
Since last January an extra million households have been pushed into
fuel poverty – defined as spending 10 per cent or more of income on
heat and light.
Mark Todd, of price comparison service energyhelpline.com, said:
“Five-and-a-half million households are now trapped in fuel poverty.
It means 12 million people can’t afford to heat their homes.”
Only Scottish and Southern Energy has pledged to pass on price cuts
to customers. Suppliers say they buy gas supplies a year in advance
so retail prices lag behind wholesale trends.