Britain may be shuddering under snowfall but that didn't stop energy giant Eon hitting millions of households today with its latest fuel rise.
As Britain's big chill forced schools to close and flights cancelled, fuel poverty activists attacked the company after Eon confirmed millions of its freezing customers would be paying an average 8.7 per cent more for their heating.
The average household with Eon will see their bills this year rise by around £110 to an eye-watering £1,370 as electricity and gas prices increase by 7.7 and 9.4 per cent.
Chief executive Tony Cocker said in December that Eon had "held back" tariffs for as long as it could but could not manage rising gas prices despite striking a discount deal with supplier Gazprom three months earlier. He insisted Eon's profits were fair, citing domestic returns in 2012 of less than 2 per cent.
But the claim followed increased sales of £4.1 billion between January and June, compared with £3.6bn the previous year, with the firm directly attributing the rise to higher demand for gas.
Meanwhile the multinational saw pre-tax profits up 55.8 per cent to around £5.6bn, with the Gazprom deal expected to treble profits in the six months to January 2013.
Energy Action Scotland director Norman Kerr said Mr Cocker's quibbles were no excuse.
"Although it is the last of the big six companies to increase its prices, Eon's move will still hit customers already struggling to afford to keep warm at home this winter."
Impoverished households - especially the elderly, parents with young children and people with disabilities - had come to fear their fuel bills and too often risked their health by skimping on heating, he said.
Customers could at least take cheer at a possible cheque in the mail.
The company has been ordered to repay around £1.4 million to customers who were wrongly charged exit fees or overcharged following previous price rises.
Meanwhile, price reporting agency ICIS Heren confirmed today it had sacked whistleblower Seth Freedman, whose price-fixing claims triggered ongoing investigations of the wholesale gas trade by the Financial Services Authority and regulator Ofgem.
ICIS said Mr Freedman had lost the trust of its fellow agencies and his colleagues.
But Mr Freedman said his sacking was "classic victimisation and intimidation."
His lawyer Shah Qureshi said her client's treatment beggared belief and he was already seeking an appeal.
The allegations stem from a series of wild swings in the wholesale gas market last year, where trades repeatedly dropped well below market rates between 4 and 4.30pm - the period when agencies calculated the close-of-trading price, affecting millions of pounds in long-term contracts.
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