Big six energy provider SSE has sparked a heated exchange in parliament over its demeaning advice for customers to cuddle pets, eat porridge and do star jumps to stay warm instead of turning on the central heating.
The misguided communication was intended to help households manage a steep rise in energy prices, but has instead raised the political temperature on the mounting fuel crisis, with MPs queuing up to castigate the firm’s “insulting” and “offensive” messaging.
The unforced PR crisis was precipitated by a farcical email issued by SSE Energy Services that listed ten unhelpful ways to keep warm over the cold winter months. Pearls of wisdom included “sticking to non-alcoholic drinks,” performing household chores, having a cuddle with pets and loved ones, and “encouraging blood flow” by eating ginger – but not chili as “it makes you sweat.”
Descending into near self-parody, the email stooped to advising parents to hold hula-hoop competitions to keep the cold at bay. The message also recommended a stiff drink, with the caveat that the “warming feeling from wine or whisky is temporary as you’ll soon lose heat from your core and end up feeling even colder.”
Criticisms were swift from across the political divide, with Conservative MP Theresa Villiers observing that hard-pressed customers “... won’t take kindly to being told to do some star jumps.” This position was echoed by Labour MP Clive Lewis, who dismissed the missive as “clown-like” and “depressing.”
SSE Energy Services owner Ovo has disavowed the contents of the message, stating: “We understand how difficult the situation will be for many of our customers this year. We are working hard to find meaningful solutions as we approach this energy crisis, and we recognize that the content of this blog was poorly judged and unhelpful. We are embarrassed and sincerely apologize.”