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British gas bosses ordered to “give back profits”

The heads of Britain’s biggest gas and electricity companies are being ordered by the government to hand over part of their multi-billion pound profits, or face a new windfall tax.

Charities, including Help the Aged, have expressed their concern at the rising fuel bills, according to The Sunday Telegraph. It is reported that the chief executives of the utility giants have been summoned to Downing Street and given a dressing-down over the soaring sums being made from millions of customers. Unless they agree to subsidize a new nationwide “fuel poverty” scheme aimed at the 4.5 million poorest households, a levy will be put on their profits, the paper said. The fuel poverty program is to be unveiled by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, as part of the Budget on March 12. The government has moved to curtail, what is increasingly seen as “excessive profiteering” by the utilities industry, with customers having to pay soaring household gas and electricity bills. This came only weeks after the major energy providers raised prices by as much as 15%.

The biggest utility Centrica, recently announced a £571 million (about $1,136.29 million ) profit from its residential energy business British Gas, which serves 16 million customers. Last week, the CEO of Scottish & Southern Energy, the country’s second-largest provider, and nPower, the fourth-biggest, were ordered to attend meetings in Downing Street. Over the next few days, they will be followed by their counterparts at Centrica, Scottish Power, E.ON and EDF Energy, which owns the former London Electricity business. The threat of a windfall tax on profits came a week after energy watchdog Ofgem launched an investigation into power and gas supply markets because of growing public concern over price rises. (people.com.cn)