Recognising the economic difficulties many households are facing today, British Gas, Britain's largest energy provider, has announced a range of extra support for its customers to help them keep their homes warm, save energy and keep bills as low as possible this winter.
Working closely with its independent Customer Board, British Gas has developed the following:
- A British Gas "Warmer Winter"package including: a commitment not to raise energy prices this winter, a discount for low income customers, free insulation offer and flexible payment plans.
- A mailing to its customers to ensure they get the maximum benefits and rewards available. A new "Tariff Checker" will ensure customers are on the right deal for them.
Furthermore, to encourage more competition and stable prices, British Gas is going further than any generator selling around 80% of the electricity it produces from its own power stations into the forward open market.
A "Warmer Winter" from British Gas
British Gas' "Warmer Winter" package will provide extra help to over one and a half million homes:
A firm commitment to hold prices down
At a time of rising commodity prices, British Gas is committing to hold its energy prices for all its variable rate customers throughout the winter.
Helping more customers to claim the Warm Homes Discount
British Gas has the broadest eligibility criteria for the new Warm Homes Discount Scheme - all eligible customers who apply before the end of January 2012 will receive a £120 discount off their winter electricity bills.
Extending the offer of free insulation to all our customers
British Gas is extending its insulation offer to allow customers until December 22nd 2011 to sign up for free loft and wall cavity insulation (worth at least £200 per home), together saving the average household more than £200 on their annual dual fuel bill. This year alone, British Gas will insulate 200,000 of its customer's homes.
Helping all customers to get a better deal
British Gas is contacting its customers helping them get the most from British Gas, including all of the discounts, rewards and benefits to which they are entitled. A "Tariff Checker" will help customers find and move to the right British Gas tariff for them.
Priority service for vulnerable customers
Vulnerable customers receive a priority service in boiler breakdowns, ensuring that they will not be without heat and British Gas will not disconnect domestic customers.
Flexible payment options
Last year, British Gas helped more than a million households with flexible payment plans and other direct financial support - and it is now offering direct debit customers the same opportunity to set and manage their own payments.
Helping British businesses
British Gas has set up a dedicated team to help businesses and organisations, particularly SMEs, that may be struggling to pay their bills in the current economic climate. This team of business advice experts offers billing, debt and energy efficiency advice, as well as flexible payment plans. British Gas has already helped more than 15,000 firms to manage their bills better, with 2,000 businesses setting up tailored payment plans.
Phil Bentley, Managing Director of British Gas, said:
"With rising energy prices, hard-pressed households need extra help this winter. Our"Warmer Winter" package is a £100 million commitment helping British Gas customers get the best value for money in keeping their energy bills as low as possible.
"We want our customers to be confident they are on the right deal for them. That's why we're ensuring everyone benefits from the discounts and rewards available."
Improving the availability of power in the electricity wholesale market
British Gas supports moves to improve the availability of power in the electricity wholesale market. British Gas' parent company, Centrica, currently sells around 80% of its power production into the electricity wholesale market, going far beyond Ofgem's proposal for 20% of power generated to be auctioned. This increases the availability of power in the forward market which is particularly important for new market entrants, supporting more stable prices.
Targetted Winter Fuel Payments
British Gas is also highlighting what could be achieved through the better targetting of the Government's Winter Fuel Payment. Last year, more than £2billion was spent on the payments, which were issued universally to all 12million pensioner households - although less than 20% of these households are in fuel poverty, 65,000 of them live overseas in warm countries, and 100,000 of them have an annual income of more than £100,000. British Gas believes that if the £2billion was targeted at the people who need it most, this would provide an extra £420 for the poorest pensioners, effectively lifting them out of fuel poverty.
Notes to Editors
1. Warm Homes Discount
The Warm Home Discount (WHD) Scheme has been introduced to replace energy suppliers' existing social tariffs. There are two groups of customers who will qualify for the WHD - a ‘core group' and a ‘broader group'
British Gas has set the broadest eligibility criteria. British Gas customers may be eligible for the broader group rebate if they are:
- in receipt of Cold Weather payments
- or have a household income below £16,190 and are elderly or in receipt of means tested eligible benefit
- or have a household income below £16,190 and have a disability or long term illness
- or have a household income of below £16,190 and are spending more than 10% on fuel for adequate heating (usually 21 degrees for the main living area)
British Gas will pay the rebate in spring 2012 to all eligible British Gas customers who apply before the end of January 2012
Existing British Gas customers in receipt of the Pension Credit Guarantee don't need to apply, we will contact them. Our "Essentials" customers will stay on their discounted tariff through the winter and do not need to contact us. Any other British Gas customers who think they might be eligible, can call British Gas for free on: 0800 048 0202
2. Winter Fuel Payments
Winter Fuel Payments were introduced in 1997-98 as a one-off £20 payment per household to help pensioners pay fuel bills. It is now £200 per household where the oldest person is aged 60-79 years and £300 for households with a person aged 80 or over.
3. Supporting vulnerable customers
Today's announcement of extra help for customers this winter and the campaign to better target the winter fuel payment, is in addition to British Gas' existing, extensive package of help for elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers, which includes:
- Extra support with household bills and essential household items available through the British Gas Energy Trust grant scheme. Consumers who are struggling with bills may be eligible for help and can contact the Trust by visitinghttp://www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/, or by calling 01733 421 060
- Benefits Entitlement Checks for customers who are unsure of the benefits they are entitled to
- A dedicated ‘Here to Help' scheme, offering extra support with password and nominee schemes
- Free gas safety checks
- Priority attention for those who are most vulnerable and without heating due to faulty appliances
- Alternative bill formats
4. Selling generation into the forward electricity market
New entrants complain that liquidity in the forward market is low. The forward market is particularly important for hedging sales made to customers. Although some producers are now selling into the Day Ahead market, this is of little benefit to new entrants who are trying to secure long term, stable prices for customers. British Gas currently sells around 80% of its own electricity generation in the forward market.
British Gas press office - 0800 1077015
Paul Fincham - 07789 576843
Janine Mantle - 07789 577508
James Colman - 07789 576219