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At least Dick Turpin wore a mask - British Gas starts Cold War about pricing

The corporate PR world can be dull - no really. Come ride with me as we take a weekly sideways glance at the world of PR in the lofty world of big business, from someone who has been there, done that, and was mostly fired.

What a story to come back from holiday to. British Gas has raised its prices by over 10 per cent in some instances.

A chilly (or expensive) winter awaits

Having worked in comms for a utilities firm, and a poorly organised utilities comms team at that, even I would have suggested to the directors that this was a poorly timed announcement.

Don’t get me wrong, any announcement of this magnitude is going to be classed as poorly timed, but British Gas has not even tried to bury it on a day that has bigger news it can hide behind.

Maybe it thought that the US government announcing that it was open for business again, or even Oxford Uni coming out to say that yes, the Yeti does actually exist, was enough to hide away its little announcement. Oops.

OR, hang on, maybe this is a politically motivated announcement?

Maybe Ed Milibland announcing that he would freeze utility price hikes were he to win the next election has spurred British Gas to make a tactical, big big, price hike?

No, that can’t be true can it? No one really thinks Milibland will get in? Surely not.

I, and any other self-respecting PR, have to salute the message that the previously unheard of Ian Peters, managing director of residential something or other, is trying to pedal to the media. He is saying, essentially, that it is not British Gas' fault. You see, it is entirely the government’s fault for its god damn tree hugging plans and policies that are pushing up the prices.

Oh, and it is also National Grid’s fault for charging British Gas so much to deliver its gas and juice to the end user, ie us.

Oh no, it is not (owner of British Gas) Centrica’s fault for wanting to make more money, no no no. It is not the big shareholders' fault for wanting to see the company perform better. Actually, British Gas may well have said that it is consumers' fault for wanting to actually stay warm this winter.

Ian Peters appears to have taken on the role of the innocent extra you would see at the start of the TV show Star Trek. He looks senior enough, but he is not part of the usual cast and crew, and this means just one thing: he is expendable.

In my humble opinion, Mr Peters has been chosen to front this message so that should the worse thing happen - ie another government enquiry - Centrica can circle the wagons, announce its own investigation, declare that the message was poorly communicated and jettison the defenceless Ian Peters off to spend “more time with his family”.

The only companies that will be celebrating this announcement will be the other energy companies who can now put up their prices knowing that they will get a poke, but nowhere near as bad as British Gas has had.

Ian Peters, I am here for you. If you want me to help you step up from being the Star Trek extra to the main man, give me a shout. Twitter is probably the best way - @10yetis.

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