Thursday, 31 July 2008

Think Of A Number

British Gas owners Centrica have posted a £992m half-year profit, a day after telling domestic gas customers that their bills were to rise by 35%.

Although 20% down on previous figures, Centrica’s profit figures still exceeded City forecasts by £100m; and shareholders will see their dividend increased to 3.9p a share.

“Haven’t we done well?” beamed managing director Phil Pockets. “Fortunately our prices were so high in the first place that we had a splendid safety net to keep things ticking along nicely. And by caning the punters with a 35% increase, we’ll be in clover for the next couple of months too. Then we can whack the prices up even more and blame the ever-popular ‘world energy market’ again. Nobody knows what the hell that actually means, which is great.”

When asked whether it was fair to make long-suffering British Gas customers subsidise the shareholders’ profits, Mr Pockets looked blank and asked what ‘fair’ meant, as it was a word he hadn’t come across before. When referred to a dictionary, he fell about laughing.

“Let me give you a simple lesson in market economics,” he explained, when he got up. “Shareholders give us lots of money. They matter, because at any time they can take their money and invest it anywhere else they choose. Customers also give us lots of money - but they don’t matter. They can only take their custom to a couple of other energy providers, who are all as ravenously greedy as us. Although some of our victims – sorry, customers - will switch suppliers, sooner or later the competition hikes their prices even higher and people come back to us. So as far as we’re concerned it’s a captive market - which is jolly nice, if you can swing it.”

“Anyway, don’t blame us,” added Mr Pockets. “Blame Carol Vorderman. We heard she was available, so we made her an offer and she came up with some nice big numbers for us. We’re quite keen on 35 at the moment, but we’re hoping to pull a few more numbers out and see what she can do with them.”

Meanwhile, hard-pressed customers hoping in vain to the government to intervene on their behalf are coming up with plenty of four-letter words.

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