'Millions set to desert British Gas' after 10% price increase

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Nearly three million customers are threatening to desert British Gas in protest at its decision to raise prices by 10 per cent in the space of 10 months, the consumer watchdog Energywatch claimed last night.

According to a poll conducted for Energywatch, 20 per cent of British Gas's 13.5 million customers – a total of 2.7 million households – said they were likely to switch suppliers.

The ICM poll of 1,000 consumers also found that six in 10 felt British Gas was wrong to raise prices while 84 per cent of those currently with a rival supplier would not consider switching to the company.

Ann Robinson, chairwoman of Energywatch, said: "This will make unpleasant reading for British Gas. Their greed is beginning to dog them. They've lost the argument about how necessary these prices were, lost their reputation for fairness and now they're set to lose customers."

However, a British Gas spokesman described the Energywatch poll as a "stunt" and its findings as "offensive and inaccurate".

British Gas is estimated to be gaining energy customers at a rate of 30,000 a week and, in its current advertising campaign, it boasts that 2 million people have returned since the market was deregulated. It now supplies about 70 per cent of UK households. "Price is important but what people want is service as well," the spokesman said.