Piling misery?

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

British Gas has raised the price of gas by a massive 35%, piling misery on to millions of customers.

I know the media is no stranger to hyperbole, but really? In the time of “credit crunch” and “mortgage crisis” I’d expect to be immune (they may not be exaggerated terms themselves, but they sure spawn many words of doom and gloom.) It seems I’m not actually desensitized to financial melodramatics however, I had to shake my head at this one (I’m a BG customer, through laziness, as opposed to love of them.)

Piling misery onto millions of customers? That’s a lot of misery. I think BG supplies around 16 million households (~47% market-share), so “millions” does cover its customer base, but I suspect it is over the top on the “misery” front.

Our gas bill is £30 per month, the 35% rise adds another £10.5. This is below average for UK households, since there’s only two of us. The average annual gas bill is apparently a whopping £630, making the average monthly increase just over £18.

So, is £18 quid a month misery? Maybe for a few who’re already right on the line, but for millions? Are things in the UK that bad? It does make one wince when looked at over the whole year: £220. Another thing to remember is the regressive nature of energy costs, the utterly destitute get some financial breaks, but the majority on low incomes do not. If we earned half our salaries we’d pay the same gas bill, as we would if we earned twice.

To put the rise in some sort of context: £18 is equivalent to about 6 pints of beer, or a generous Indian take-away for two, or 3 20-packs of cigarettes (I had to look that one up of course!) Even if you double that to £36 it seems, while significant, unlikely to be a cause of misery for millions of BG customers.

All the same, maybe I should look into switching gas suppliers. Misery it may not be, but a £ is a £.

(All gas and electricity suppliers are upping their prices at the moment of course. Wholesale gas/oil/coal prices are way up, so no surprise. BG does tend to just rely on the entrenched customer-base though, thus they’re usually one of the worst on prices. The joys of business as a former government monopoly!)