British Gas chief warns of bill rises ‘across the board’

British Gas explains how to read a digital gas meter

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Chris O’Shea, chief executive of parent company Centrica, said that customers switching from companies which have gone bust to other suppliers will inevitably result in price increases “across the board”. Mr O’Shea said that well-run firms should be able to withstand the current soaring wholesale gas and electricity prices. He also called for stronger regulation to prevent more suppliers failing in future.

Mr O’Shea said: “I think price regulation has helped the consumer. I think that price regulation should stay.”

The energy boss added that “the method of price regulation may need some changes” and the mechanism used to set the price cap should be reviewed.

But he added: “I’m very comfortable with the price cap staying as we go forward. I’m not asking for it to be removed.”

The price cap for 11 million households on standard variable tariffs was introduced at the start of 2019.

It came after Theresa May’s government concluded that it was necessary to prevent companies ripping off loyal customers who did not shop around for cheaper fixed-price deals.

It forced big suppliers, including British Gas, to cut their standard prices. This hit Centrica’s profits, prompting it to cut thousands of jobs to reduce costs.

Centrica has lost 75 percent of its value over five years as British Gas lost millions of customers to cut-price rivals, some of which are now going bust as wholesale prices soar.

Six firms supplying 1.5 million households have failed this month alone and Ofgem has appointed British Gas to take on the 440,000 customers of three of them.

Critics suggest that Centrica has dropped its opposition to the price cap because the measure may be hastening the demise of smaller suppliers, enabling British Gas to swiftly regain a market share.

Mr O’Shea confirmed that Centrica has made a “moderate profit” on existing standard variable tariff customers. He took over as CEO last year.

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