'It's Dick Turpin energy!' British Gas are slammed by customers for 12.5% electricity price hike a day after their website accidentally revealed the increase was coming
- News affecting 3.1m customers in announcement by parent company Centrica
- Rise from September 15 is at odds with PM's concerns about high energy bills
- Title of statement on price hikes was posted to British Gas website yesterday
- But body of the text read only 'blah blah', suggesting the upload was an error
British Gas today announced an eye-watering 12.5 per cent hike in electricity prices from next month in a direct snub to the Government.
The Centrica-owned firm was accused of 'sheer greed' and 'Dick Turpin energy' after the 18th century highway robber, following the news affecting 3.1million customers.
The huge increase in prices from September 15 - ahead of the winter - is at odds with concerns about high energy bills raised by Prime Minister Theresa May.
British Gas today announced a 12.5 per cent hike in electricity prices from next month
Before the general election, Mrs May announced plans for a cap that could save millions of people on standard variable tariffs (SVT) around £100 a year.
However, the move by British Gas suggests millions of families and pensioners will see an increase in bills, rather than a fall.
The firm said the price rise is its first since November 2013 and the group pledged to help protect more than 200,000 vulnerable customers from the increase.
Expectations of a price rise were fuelled by a website blunder by British Gas staff yesterday.
An incomplete statement briefly appeared on the website at noon promising to explain why it has had to raise electricity prices.
It was titled 'Why we've had to raise electricity prices - our first increase since November 2013.' However, the body of the text read only 'blah blah', suggesting the upload was an error.
An incomplete statement briefly appeared on the website at noon yesterday promising to explain why it has had to raise electricity prices. But the body of the text read only 'blah blah'
It was quickly removed from the website and British Gas subsequently refused to comment, beyond saying it does not speculate about future electricity pricing.
Such announcements are highly sensitive because they can affect share prices. Consequently, there are strict rules on how they are made, including timing, which is normally early in the day before stock markets open.
Social media users were outraged by today's rise. Jase Ives said: 'British Gas to be rebranded after putting up prices 12.5 per cent. No need to change personal banking details... Dick Turpin energy will get your cash.'
Theresa May previously announced plans for a cap that could save millions of people on standard variable tariffs around £100 a year
Another called 'JDunn' tweeted: 'Bye bye British Gas when the time comes. Absolutely unbelievable. Salaries not increasing like this #RansomToLive.'
And Charlotte Smith said: 'The 12.5 per cent price hike is sheer greed on the part of British Gas. Absolutely no excuse whatsoever. No doubt the others will follow.'
Details of the increase comes as British Gas owner Centrica posted half-year results revealing that earnings from its consumer business plunged by more than a quarter after it lost 377,000 UK customer accounts in the first half.
Underlying operating profits from its UK home energy supply arm tumbled 26% to £381 million as the group said it was also hit by warmer than normal temperatures and the pre-payment tariff cap.
Centrica's overall underlying operating profits were 4% lower at £816 million for the six months to June 30.
The group said it held off from the price rise a for 'up to six months longer than some of our competitors'.
The price hike will mean an average dual fuel bill for a typical annual household tariff will rise by £76 to £1,120 - a 7.3 per cent increase, according to British Gas.
The group said it will give more than 200,000 customers receiving a warm home discount a £76 credit to offset the tariff increase.
Social media users reacted with fury to the news of the British Gas price hike this morning
British Gas is the last of the Big Six providers to increase prices after it promised in December last year to freeze tariffs until August.
The group insisted its overall electricity costs had increased by 16 per cent since 2014.
But the move flies in the face of the Government, which made a pre-election pledge to introduce a price cap, although that has since been watered down to cover vulnerable households only.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell labelled the price hike 'extortionate' as Labour said it showed the Government had failed to rein in soaring energy bills.
And Alan Whitehead, shadow energy and climate change minister, said: 'Today's announcement shows that the Conservative Government has still not got a grip on the broken energy market, with companies raising prices yet again.'
'At the very least the Conservatives should institute the energy price cap which Theresa May promised during the campaign,' he added.
But Iain Conn, the chief executive of Centrica, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while the commodity price of electricity had come down, it was facing 'significant cost pressure' on transmission and distribution, as well as costs associated with Government policy.
He added: 'The net effect of both of these is an increase of about £62 on the average bill, and that is the main driver of the increase, combined with the fact that our electricity prices at British Gas have been some of the cheapest in the market, and actually we're now selling our electricity at a loss, which is clearly not sustainable.'
Mr Conn went on to say the energy market 'does need to be and could be reformed', but warned a price cap would reduce competition.
'We're actually proposing that the Government are even bolder and instead of capping standard variable tariff, they should reform it so that it's removed altogether so that contracts that don't have any end are actually phased out and that the level playing field is created so that all suppliers pay the Government's costs,' Mr Conn said.