‘We know times are hard… NOT for your CEO!’: Customers blast British Gas over ‘condescending’ cost-of-living email on when government’s £400 will kick in to ease bills burden
- Email was sent to customers to explain rollout of Energy Bills Support Scheme
- It shows a woman in distress alongside a caption: ‘More support is on the way’
- British Gas parent company Centrica saw £1.34bn profits in first half of this year
Fed-up bill payers have blasted British Gas for a ‘condescending’ cost-of-living email in which the energy giant told its customers: ‘We know times are really hard’ – just weeks after its parent company posted bumper half-year profits of £1.34 billion.
The energy firm, owned by Centrica, had contacted customers to let them know how they will receive the government’s upcoming £400 payout via the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS).
The grant is designed to help the average household tackle soaring energy costs, as watchdog Ofgem is expected to set the price cap at £3,586 in October, before rising it again to a predicted £4,266 in January.
It comes after inflation officially hit 10.1 per cent in July, a new 40-year high, while the rapidly rising cost of food and other everyday items has led experts to predict some 18 million households will struggle to pay their energy bills in the coming months.
British Gas, which services more than seven million homes across the UK, revealed that as part of the EBSS, its customers will see between £66 and £67 taken off their monthly bills between October 2022 and March next year.
However the amounts will not be automatically deducted, but paid back into the homeowner’s account ‘a few days’ after they pay what they owe in full.
But in a ‘tone deaf’ email sent to bill payers explaining the policy, a woman can be seen in clear distress while appearing to look at a bill, as a caption next to her reads: ‘More support is on the way.’
Customers brand British Gas email ‘tone deaf’, ‘patronising’ and ‘condescending’ as they blast the energy supplier for increasing prices after seeing sky-high profits this year
The email then reads: ‘We know times are really hard at the moment, with rises in living costs putting pressure on your budget. And some of our customers may find it difficult managing their energy bills.’
It adds that the new price cap increase, expected to be announced by Ofgem at the end of the month, will likely be ‘difficult news’, but that ‘regardless of your circumstances, more support is on the way.’
However the advert has stoked fury among cash-strapped Britons, who took to social media to brand it ‘patronising’ and ‘shameful.’
‘How condescending?’ one wrote on Twitter, ‘We know times are hard at the moment… not for your shareholders and CEOs.’
One fumed: ‘Fake sympathy email from British Gas telling me about the energy grant from the government and saying they know bills are stressful… how about reducing your f*****g profits then?’
Another branded the email ‘laughable’, adding: ‘They have no shame British Gas, while posting record profits.’
Others took aim at the policy itself, saying they feared £67 off their bills would not be enough to cover the huge increase forecast over the winter months.
‘Looking at the rises that are supposed to be coming, I’m not sure how much help it’ll be,’ one said.
MailOnline has contacted Centrica for comment.
Chris O’Shea (pictured centre, with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak last September), who has headed Centrica since 2018 and earns £875,000 per year, revealed on July 28 that operating half-year profits at the firm had risen five fold to £1.34billion
The headline CPI rate reached 10.1 per cent in July – well above analysts’ predictions of 9.8 per cent. It was up from 9.4 per cent the previous month
British Gas, owned by Centrica, has contacted customers to let them know how they will receive the government’s upcoming £400 payout via the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS).
But the email has been branded condescending and patronising by some customers online.
The email reads:
Hello [customer’s name],
We know times are really hard at the moment, with rises in living costs putting pressure on your budget. And some of our customers may find it difficult managing their energy bills.
As you may have seen in the news, your energy prices are likely to rise in line with the new price cap, which we are expecting to be formally announced at the end of this month.
We understand this is difficult news. Once Ofgem release more information we’ll be in touch to let you know exactly what this means for you.
We’re contacting you to let you know that, regardless of your circumstances, more support is on the way. The government has recently announced the new Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS), which will give households a £400 discount off their energy bills from October. You can find out more about the scheme and how it will work on our website.
Energy watchdog Ofgem is expected to set the price cap at £4,266 for the average household in the three months from the beginning of January – around £650 higher than its previous forecast issued at the start of August.
It comes after gas prices spiked again on Monday and unless they drop in the coming months, average households could be facing an annual energy bill of £4,650 from January and £5,456 from April.
Meanwhile Chris O’Shea, who has headed Centrica since 2018 and earns £875,000 per year, revealed on July 28 that operating half-year profits at the firm had risen five fold to £1.34billion.
Centrica’s bumper profits for the six months to the end of June far outpaced the £262m recorded in the same period last year.
The firm, which produces energy as well as selling it to households and businesses, announced it would restart its dividend at 1p per share after suspending it for three years – sparking a backlash from critics.
Energy giant Shell joined Centrica in reporting bumper profits of £9.4bn in the second quarter – more than double last year’s figure of £4.5bn.
It comes as it was revealed today how pub, restaurant and business owners are being forced to close their doors as the crippling cost of living crisis continues to take hold over the country.
Small businesses in particular have been unable to cope with the soaring cost of energy and food bills – and are now calling for immediate government intervention.
It comes as inflations hit double figures for the first time in 40 years, the highest it’s been since 1982, at 10.1 per cent.
Now, an estimated 45 million people will struggle to pay energy bills this winter with predicted rises in price cap.
The new study, by the University of York, shows that 18 million families will be left trying to make ends meet after further predicted rises in the energy price cap in October and January.
Martin McTague, the national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, has warned that the ‘toxic cocktail’ of rising taxes, energy costs, inflation and shrinking economic growth means ‘action is needed right now’.
‘The cost of living crisis can’t be solved without addressing the cost of doing business crisis,’ he said.
Yorkshire restaurant boss, Marco Di Rienzo has been forced to close his business after five years because of a £2,000 monthly bill.
Yorkshire restaurant boss, Marco Di Rienzo (pictured) has been forced to close his business after five years because of a £2,000 monthly bill
The upmarket Italian restaurant, Santoni, on Airedale Road, Keighley (pictured) remains popular, but with the worsening cost of living crisis means the owner has no choice
The upmarket Italian restaurant, Santoni, on Airedale Road, Keighley remains popular, but with the worsening cost of living crisis and rising prices in general, Mr Di Rienzo has been left with no choice.
‘The main factor is what’s coming ahead,’ he told Yorkshire Live.
‘I think there is a tough year or two ahead….with higher food prices, gas and electricity.’
With his business facing rising gas and electric bills of up to 40%, the monthly bill would be rising from roughly £1,200 a month in the summer to £1,800, he said.
Winter monthly bills would be closer to £2,000.
Food bills for the restaurant are also reaching crippling levels, says Mr Di Rienzo. Since March, a 20-litre drum of vegetable oil had risen from about £20 to £42.
Imported Italian mozzarella cheese had also gone up from £6 per kilo to more than £7 and San Marzano tomatoes had gone up from around £8.70 to £11.20 per kilo.
A slew of supermarket items have also far outpaced the inflation rate, with the cost of low fat milk rising by 34 per cent on average over the past 12 months, according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)
The latest stats reveal the headline CPI rate reached 10.1 per cent in July – well above analysts’ predictions of 9.8 per cent. It was up from 9.4 per cent the previous month, driven largely by fuel and food prices.
It is the highest inflation has been since February 1982, when the measure was estimated to have been 10.4 per cent, and comes amid a cost-of-living crisis that is seeing prices spiral on everything from package holidays to fish and chips and even toothbrushes.
A slew of supermarket items have also far outpaced the inflation rate, with the cost of low fat milk rising by 34 per cent on average over the past 12 months, according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Other dairy products also topped the list, with whole milk surging by 28.1 per cent, butter by 27.1 per cent and cheese by 17 per cent over the same period.
Other essentials such as olive oil, jam and honey and eggs rose by 23.6 per cent, 21.2 per cent and 14.6 per cent respectively.
Susannah Streeter, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told the Evening Standard: ‘The relentless rise upwards in prices continues, with little sign of a break for consumers who are desperately trying to make ends meet.
‘With more painful hikes in energy bills to come, and prices rising rapidly in supermarkets, many consumers are already having to make some hard choices about how to spend their dwindling budgets.
‘The path is set for a scorching summer of price rises to merge into a pretty awful Autumn and a winter of woe as households struggle against this tide of inflation.’
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