Britain’s third-largest energy supplier has sparked outrage after it advised households to save on their heating bills this winter by getting “a hug”, eating “full bowls of porridge” and sticking to “non-alcoholic beverages”.
MPs called the advice from a department of Ovo Energy to its customers on Monday “insulting” and “offensive”.
The email the company sent contained 10 “simple and cost-effective ways to keep warm this winter”, such as having “name with your pets and loved ones to keep it cozy” and eating ginger but avoiding chili, “as it makes you sweat ”.
The email, which the Financial Times has seen, was sent to customers at SSE Energy Services, the UK electricity and gas retailer, which Ovo acquired in 2020.
The British are facing the greatest pressure on their income since the financial crisis of 2008-09. Energy bills for millions of households are expected to rise by more than 50 per cent, or £ 700, in April to £ 2,000 a year per household when the UK energy price ceiling is adjusted.
Darren Jones, chairman of the executive committee, urged Ovo to apologize to its customers for the “insensitive” comments.
“Being told to put on a jumper instead of turning on your heat if you can not afford it, at a time of such difficulty for so many families, is clearly offensive,” the Labor MP said.
Theresa Villiers, a former Tory minister, said the council was probably well-meaning but that it was “pretty insensitive” nonetheless. “A lot of people are very worried about rising energy bills and will not kindly accept being asked to do some star jumps,” she added.
The impending increase in the energy bill follows record-high increases in wholesale gas and electricity prices since last summer. The ceiling, which determines bills for more than 15 million households, was raised by 12 percent by energy regulator Ofgem in October.
Charities have warned that rising energy prices could throw millions of households into “fuel poverty”, contributing to the looming cost of living crisis.
Also included in the email is a recommendation to “get moving” by “challenging the kids to a hula hoop competition”, cleaning the house or “doing a few star jumps”.
Ginger is recommended as it “keeps you warm by promoting blood flow”, just as complex carbohydrates, including porridge, “will help increase your body temperature as they take longer to digest”.
Customers are also advised to drink more water as body temperature may drop due to dehydration, but they are warned that the “warming sensation from wine or whiskey is temporary as you will soon lose heat from your core and end up feeling even colder “. It added: “Stick to non-alcoholic beverages.”
A government official said the advice to eat porridge and avoid alcohol was “like some Dickens nightmare”.
Clive Lewis, Labor MP for Norwich South, said the guide was “clown-like” and “depressing”.
“It’s ridiculous and insulting, but with this government’s lack of an energy strategy, one almost expects it,” he said. The comments “will be read by people who have to choose between eating and heating. . . if that is the situation in the country we are in now, I think it is quite depressing ”.
Ovo declined to comment further on the council.