British Gas accused of sleight of hand over disconnections

The bosses of British Gas were accused of being “disingenuous” about the number of people the firm has cut off. At its AGM yesterday it was accused of forcing customers […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The bosses of British Gas were accused of being “disingenuous” about the number of people the firm has cut off.

At its AGM yesterday it was accused of forcing customers struggling with energy bills to get prepayment meters, with campaigners claiming people were cutting themselves off when they didn’t have enough money for heating or electricity.

Prepayment meters need topping up manually, with a key or card that you pay to put credit on, often in corner shops.

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Centrica which owns the energy supplier, told the audience of shareholders and guests in London that the last time his firm cut off someone was in February 2010.

He said that was for “debt related issues” but added that the company “chases hard” to avoid doing so.

The chairman explained there was a “recognition there’s a risk of self-termination”, adding: “This is not an easy issue… Trust me, we’re doing a lot.”

Centrica’s CEO Sam Laidlaw agreed it was a “very important issue”, referring to the British Gas Energy Trust for people who are struggling with bills.

But later in the Q&A session, a campaigner called Eva J from Fuel Poverty Action which had organised a protest (pictured) outside the AGM, angrily accused the company of being “totally disingenuous” about the disconnections.

She said: “You’re imposing prepayment meters on people who are the poorest in this country who pay the most and use the least energy.

“You say that the last time you cut someone off was 2010, totally disingenuous, because when you put people on a PPM, they cut themselves off.”