British Gas slammed over huge profitsIt reveals profits up 500%, just after bills hiked

21 February 2008

A blue flame from a gas hob

Although there is no 'green gas', you can still switch your energy supplier to a green tariff

British Gas has come under fire after the residential customer side of its business recorded a rise in profits of 500%.

Parent company Centrica today revealed the energy giant’s consumer arm made annual profits of £571 million in 2007, up from £95m in 2006.

The news comes a month after British Gas hiked the energy bills of 13 million customers by 15%.

Centrica said its record profits haul followed a ‘year of two halves’ for its residential business.

Customer service

The vast majority of the profit - £533 million – had come in the first half of the year before an increase in wholesale energy prices.

Following a spate of complaints about customer service, Centrica said improvements to service, and more competitive pricing, had helped British Gas claw back 200,000 customers in the second part of the year.

Centrica defended the decision to increase energy bills last month.

It argued that its British Gas division would now be making a loss if it had not made the move.

Rising bills

But industry watchdog Energywatch has hit out at the huge surge in profits.

15%

Hike in bills for 13 million British Gas customers

Energywatch Director of Campaigns Adam Scorer said: ‘No-one is going to argue that energy companies don't need to make a profit.

‘However, British Gas customers will want to tear their hair out when they hear the scale of these profits and compare them with their own rising bills.’

He added: ‘It is perfectly true that there is volatility in wholesale energy markets. But it seems equally true that such volatility hits consumers not shareholders. Consumers will feel justified in claiming that they are being taken for a very rough ride by energy companies.’

Switch with Which?

Which? runs an impartial energy price comparison site - Switch with Which? - where you can check which supplier offers the best deal for your gas and electricity.

Users of Switch with Which? are currently enjoying average savings of £200 each year on their energy bills. The figure comes from those who used the site to switch in the 12 months to July 2007.