British Gas Trading is launching a service called Family Care, which will allow people to pay bills for members of their family.
The move, which industry sources say is an attempt to portray British Gas as a caring organisation, comes after accusations last week that it is discriminating against millions of poor customers with its new pricing system.
Family Care will allow people to pay gas bills for members of their families without any extra charge. For example, parents will be able to pay their children’s gas bills while they are at college, or children can pay for an elderly relative. It is already possible for them to do this, but British Gas has decided to promote the service through advertising. The scheme is expected to be launched at the end of September.
The move comes after British Gas faced harsh criticism from the Government and consumer groups about its new pricing strategy, which will offer nine per cent discounts on bills to customers who pay through direct debit or within ten days of the first demand. But an estimated 3 million customers, many of them on low incomes, will miss out on the discounts, critics claim.
Two new companies have applied to the regulator Ofgas for licences to compete in the gas market. Yorkshire Electricity has launched a company called YE Gas, and Energy Supplies UK has launched Northern Energy.