Four of the big six energy companies have announced price hikes during the past two months, all adding around 18 per cent on gas prices and nine per cent on electricity tariffs.
Greenpeace has pointed out that these announcements were made on days when big stories were in the headlines, suggesting they were ‘good days to bury bad news’ for the companies.
Most recently, Npower announced its price hikes on 16 August, the day that News International documents were released by the culture media and sport select committee.
On 5 August, E.On revealed its own price increases, against a backdrop of the world markets going into meltdown.
Scottish and Southern Energy made its announcement on 21 July, as the Euro crisis wiped billions off the stock markets.
These followed British Gas’ announcement on 8 July, which came out during news of the closure of the News of the World.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Louise Hutchins said: ‘A pattern is emerging here. Four energy companies have so far announced double-digit price increases and all of them have done it on days when there have been major news announcements.
‘You can’t help drawing the conclusion that these companies have used the cover of major news events to bury the bad news of these massive price hikes.’
However, E.ON UK senior external affairs manager Jonathan Smith responded by arguing that price increases are planned for several weeks in advance.
‘As you can imagine, with the best part of five million customer letters to be sent out, it’s almost impossible for us to stop the process overnight,’ added Smith.
‘In the case of our recent price increase, the markets started to fall on the Thursday as we made our announcement on the Friday morning, and it was simply too late for us to even consider a postponement.
‘There was certainly no attempt on our behalf to hide bad news and we made our Energy Solutions MD available for a BBC Radio 5 Live interview, as well as carrying out a Twitter Q&A on the day.’
In addition, Npower PR manager Nick McHugh said: ‘A huge amount of planning has to go into it. Millions of people have to be written to. The logistics have to be planned. You’re looking at a six-week period in which you have an opportunity to put things in place. There are huge financial ramifications in bringing it forward or delaying it. It isn’t something that you take lightly to change the date.’