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Centrica profit warning as customers desert

Centrica profits warning as 100,000 customers desert British Gas amid rationing claims

British Gas has lost 100,000 customers as families react to an 18 per cent increase in gas tariffs and 11 per cent rise in the price of electricity.

The combination of fewer customers and lower energy sales has forced the firm’s parent company, Centrica, to warn that profits will be below expectations.  

The number of customer accounts at the UK’s biggest energy supplier is down by about 100,000 to 15.9million since the start of the year, according to City analysts.

Centrica said average household gas use is down by 17 per cent compared with a year ago, while electricity is down by 3 per cent.

Business consumption fell 15 per cent for gas and 12 per cent for electricity. Despite this, City analysts predict the company will make a pre-tax profit of £2.3billion this year, which would represent a rise of   20 per cent or £400million on 2010.

Rebecca Seabury, an energy analyst at Inenco, said: ‘I’m sure there won’t be many tears amongst consumers over these figures. Price rises announced by British Gas and the other energy companies have put millions of households into fuel poverty.

“If the extreme cold weather of last winter is replicated this year then British Gas profits will rise again but for many it will be a stark choice between eat or heat.”