British Gas price hike boosts annual profits by 11%

Gas hob

British Gas has announced an 11% rise in profits for 2012, citing last year's cold weather as the reason for the spike.

The supplier said gas consumption was up 12% year-on-year, boosting its profit to £606 million, up from £544 million in 2011.

But the company is now under fire for its profits boom so soon after hiking prices by 6% in November last year.

At the time, the supplier said the increase was due to rising wholesale prices, as well as higher costs to upgrade the national grid and deliver the government's policies for a greener Britain.

Tough to swallow

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, an energy provider comparison site, said: "Asking customers to swallow a 6% winter price hike and then unveiling an 11% increase in profits is tantamount to waving a red rag at a bull.

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"Yes, there is a huge amount of investment required to keep the lights on over the next 10 years but there has to be a balance between energy companies making healthy profits and people going cold for fear of the cost of turning their heating on."

According to uSwitch, almost seven in 10 households went without heating over the winter at some point to keep their energy costs down.

"While British Gas makes a strong case about future investment, jobs and security, I suspect there will be little sympathy especially among those who have shivered at home this winter," added Robinson.

She is now calling on British Gas to take the lead in cutting the costs of bills for households - the average household bill currently stands at £1,336, more than double what it was in 2005.

The chief executive of Centrica, which owns British Gas, Sam Laidlaw, told the BBC the profit margin he was working with is the sort of margin required to make investments in new sources of energy.

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