56% or £403 in 12 Months: That’s How Much British Gas Has Raised Energy Prices for Its Customers, uSwitch.com Says

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The increases have added £78 to gas bills and £37 to electricity bills since 4th September 2006.

The company revealed in its annual results today that it has lost £143 million for the first six months of the year(12), although the £884 million that will be generated by this price rise should more than make up the difference

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Fifty-six percent (1) or £403 in 12 months -- that’s how much British Gas has raised energy prices for its customers, according to uSwitch.com.

*Increases add £78 to gas bills and £37 to electricity bills (2)from 4th September 2006.

*Average annual bill size for British Gas customers now stands at £1120(3).

*Increase will add £884 million(4)to British Gas customers’ bills.

*Third price rise in 12 months and fifth since the beginning of 2004(5).

*Average gas bill has nearly doubled from £591 to £707(6)in 4 years.

*British Gas now 22% more expensive on average than competitors(7)

British Gas customers have just found out when their next price rise is going to be - and it’s not 2007 - as the company today announced its third price rise in the space of a year. It has increased gas prices by 57% and electricity prices by 52% during this time, taking their average annual energy bill from £717 to £1120(10).

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, comments: “The public assurances given earlier in the year by British Gas following their record price rises in February have been rendered meaningless to their customers today, as they face further price rise misery in what has become the ‘annus horribilis’ for UK households."

It seems that in spite of raising gas and electricity prices by a record 22% only 5 months ago, and leading customers to believe that they would be safe from further increases until 2007, British Gas underestimated the profits this move would deliver to their shareholders(11), so they are once again looking to their customers to make up the shortfall, Robinson said. "The company revealed in its annual results today that it has lost £143 million for the first six months of the year(12), although the £884 million that will be generated by this price rise should more than make up the difference," she said.

“Whilst British Gas continues to hide behind rising wholesale gas prices, this still doesn’t explain why they remain £213(13) more expensive than the cheapest supplier in the market place and £204(14) more expensive on average than the other major suppliers," she said. "It is quite clear that the interests of British Gas customers come a poor second to the interests of the company’s shareholders."

Energy prices this year have now risen by 29%(15) on average, and much has been made by British Gas in particular of the benefits to consumers of signing up to its long-term fixed price product.

-- Mark Clare (Managing Director, British Gas): “While there can be no guarantees in such a volatile wholesale market, we see no need for any further price rises this year...” 17th February 2006 (8)

-- Amanda Mackenzie (Brand Director, British Gas): “Our record… is that we put our price up once in the year and that’s it, whereas our competitors go twice. So you never know when the next price rise is going to be.” 28th February 2006 (9)

Robinson continues: “Fixed and capped-price products are certainly worth considering if a consumer wants the security of knowing that they will be insulated from further price rises over a fixed period, and don’t mind paying a premium for this security. However, prices for these products have varied between suppliers by at least 5% or £46(16) in the past, so consumers who are considering this type of product shouldn’t just sign up to the first one that is offered to them by their provider.

“For those who want to ensure that they are on the cheapest tariff, online deals represent the best value, as they are consistently cheaper than standard offline tariffs, although prices can vary significantly between providers," she said. "Even in the current climate of endless price rises, there are still significant savings to be made by consumers if they are willing to shop around, especially for the 10 million(17) households who have never switched supplier.”

Robinson concludes: “Energy is no longer a commodity that we can take for granted and everyone needs to start thinking about how much energy they use, and start using it more effectively. We all need to become more energy efficient, and the money people can save by switching to a cheaper energy supplier can be spent on energy efficiency measures elsewhere in the home.”

The British Gas Premium

uSwitch.com has developed the ‘British Gas Premium’(18), which tracks how much more expensive on average British Gas products are when compared to similar products offered by other suppliers.

Standard tariffs

British Gas Standard    

£1,064            

Cheapest standard option

£815    

British Gas Premium

(£)         (%)

£213     26%

Fixed/capped tariffs

British Gas Price Protection Dec 2009    

£968

Cheapest fixed/capped option    

£943    

British Gas Premium

(£)     (%)

£25     3%

Online tariffs

British Gas Click Energy    

£858

Cheapest option    

£779    

British Gas Premium

(£)     (%)

£79    10%

Notes to editors:

1.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions, since 19th September

2.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions.

3.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions.

4.According to Centrica’s 2005 preliminary results British Gas have 11,131,000 gas customers and 5,920,000. According to Centrica’s 2006 AGM statement British Gas have 2,500,000 fixed rate accounts, we assume that these are distributed between gas and electricity in the same proportions as the total British Gas customer accounts. Therefore 1,632,000 gas and 868,000 electricity customers will not be affected by today’s increase. Based on a medium usage (20,500 kWhs of gas and 3,300 kWhs of electricity) customer on British Gas’ standard tariff. Averaged across payment on receipt of bill and by fixed monthly direct debit, taking an average across all regions, gas bills will go up by £74 and electricity by £36. Therefore this increase will cost British Gas gas customers £702 million and British Gas electricity customers £182 million, this totals £884 million.

5.British Gas have increased their prices for domestic customer five times since 1st Jaunary 2004:

·10th January 2004

·20th September 2004

·19th September 2005

·1st March 2006

·4th September 2006

6.Based on a medium usage gas customer (20,500 kWh of gas per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions, since 1st January 2003

7.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions. British Gas is compared to the average bill size for the remainder of the “Big 6” gas and electricity suppliers (EDF Energy, npower, Powergen, Scottish & Southern Energy and ScottishPower)

8.Source: British Gas Statement on Energy Prices - 17th February 2006

9.Source: Amanada Mackenzie - Watchdog, BBC One - 28th February 2006

10.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions, since 19th September 2006.

11.Source: Centrica 2006 AGM Statement, 19th May 2006

12.Source: Centrica plc: British Gas Price Statement – 27th July 2006

13.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying monthly direct debit. Prices are averaged across all regions. British Gas is compared to the cheapest standard bill sized for each region, average across all regions from the remainder of the “Big 6” suppliers.

14.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on British Gas standard plan, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions. British Gas is compared to the average bill size for the remainder of the “Big 6” gas and electricity suppliers (EDF Energy, npower, Powergen, Scottish & Southern Energy and ScottishPower)

15.Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year) on standard plans averaged across the “Big Six” gas and electricity suppliers, paying by cash or cheque on receipt of bill. Prices are averaged across all regions.

16.Difference between cheapest and most expensive fixed or capped plans, when averaged across all regions. Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year), paying by monthly direct debit. This is based on Fixed and Capped plans available in the market as of 26th July 2006.

17.Source: Ofgem press release – 6th February 2006

18.Difference between British Gas tariffs (as stated in the title of the table) compared to the cheapest tariff from the remaining “Big Six” suppliers, available in the market on 26th July 2006. Based on a medium usage customer (20,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity per year), paying by monthly direct debit, averaged across all regions.

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