5 reasons why British Gas has had a bad year

The UK’s largest energy provider British Gas has seen its profits curtailed after a mild British winter saw customers using less fuel to heat their homes.

British Gas owner Centrica said that British customers would pay around £90 less than they paid last year for their energy bills.

British Gas’s profit for supplying residential properties fell by a quarter to £265m, while operating profit at Centrica fell sharply, down 35% at £1.03bn.

Outgoing Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw told the BBC: “We had warmer weather in the UK which meant that actually our average customer’s consumption of gas was down 24%.

“We actually also simultaneously had very cold weather in the US - the polar vortex - which resulted in generating companies charging us with a lot of additional ancillary costs.

“The good news from a customer’s point of view is that actually we expect average bills to be down by some 7%, or £90, this year.”

Laidlaw will remain in his post until the beginning of 2015. He is being replaced by Iain Conn, who is currently BP’s head of refining and marketing.

Poor record

The profit fall at British Gas is the latest in a string of incidents at the energy giant over the last few months that have put it in a poor light.

1. In October last year British Gas set the bar very high when it comes to conducting the perfect social media backlash. Using the hashtag #AskBG on the same day as it hiked energy bills by 9%, the energy company practically invited public denigration from angry consumers.

The company followed this up by posting a job description for a new social media manager.

2. In the following November, Sam Laidlaw admitted that “trust in the energy sector as a whole is at an all-time low”.

3. In February 2014, Centrica chairman Rick Haythornthwaite cautioned that we could be at risk of black-outs, after announcing a profit fall at British Gas of 6% to £571m in 2013.

4. Later that month, British Gas endured more bad press when all of the “Big Six” energy companies were ordered to return more than £400m to customers after Ofgem found the money was being held in closed accounts.

5. In April British Gas was slapped with a massive £5.6m fine for blocking customers switching. Ofgem said that British Gas had also failed to tell some businesses that their contracts were ending.

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