|Type||Limited company (subsidiary of Centrica)|
|Founded||February 1997 (as a subsidiary of Centrica)|
|Headquarters||Staines-upon-Thames, United Kingdom|
|Sarwjit Sambhi |
(Chief Executive, Centrica Consumer)
(Managing Director, UK Home)
Boilers and central heating
Plumbing and drains
Home appliance services
|Parent||HM Government (1812–1986)|
British Gas is an energy and home services provider in the United Kingdom. It is the trading name of British Gas Services Limited and British Gas New Heating Limited, both subsidiaries of Centrica. Serving around twelve million homes in the United Kingdom, British Gas is the biggest energy supplier in the country, and is considered one of the Big Six dominating the gas and electricity market in the United Kingdom.
The Gas Light and Coke Company was the first public utility company in the world. It was founded by Frederick Albert Winsor and incorporated by Royal Charter on 30 April 1812 under the seal of King George III.
It continued to thrive for the next 136 years, expanding into domestic services whilst absorbing many smaller companies including the Aldgate Gas Light and Coke Company (1819), the City of London Gas Light and Coke Company (1870), the Equitable Gas Light Company (1871), the Great Central Gas Consumer's Company (1870), Victoria Docks Gas Company (1871), Western Gas Light Company (1873), Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company (1876), Independent Gas Light and Coke Company (1876), the London Gas Light Company (1883), Richmond Gas Company (1925), Brentford Gas Company (1926), Pinner Gas Company (1930) and Southend-on-Sea and District Gas Company (1932).
On 1 May 1949, the GLCC became the major part of the new North Thames Gas Board, one of Britain's twelve regional gas boards after the passing of the Gas Act 1948 by Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government.
In the beginning of the 1900s, the gas market in the United Kingdom was mainly run by county councils and small private firms. At this time the use of a flammable gas (often known as "town gas") piped to houses as a fuel was still being marketed to consumers, by such means as the National Gas Congress and Exhibition in 1913. The gas used in the 19th and early 20th centuries was coal gas, but in the period of 1967–77, British domestic coal gas supplies were replaced by natural gas.
In 1948, Clement Attlee's Labour government reshaped the gas industry, bringing in the Gas Act 1948. The act (on the vesting date of 1 April 1949) nationalised the gas industry in the United Kingdom and 1,062 privately owned and municipal gas companies were merged into twelve area gas boards, each a separate body with its own management structure.
The twelve gas boards were: Eastern, East Midlands, Northern, North Eastern, North Thames, North West, Scottish, Southern, South Eastern, South West, Wales, and West Midlands. Each area board was divided into geographical groups or divisions which were often further divided into smaller districts. These boards simply became known as the "gas board", a term still sometimes used when referring to British Gas.
In addition, the Gas Act established the Gas Council, its constitution was such that control lay effectively with the area boards. The council consisted of a chairman and deputy chairman, both appointed by the minister, and the chairmen of each of the twelve area boards. The council served as a channel of communication with the minister; undertook labour negotiations; undertook research; and acted as spokesperson for the gas industry generally.
The Gas Act 1965 shifted the balance of power to the centre: it put the Gas Council on the same footing as the area boards, with the powers to borrow up to £900 million, to manufacture or acquire gas and to supply gas in bulk to any area board. In May 1968, the Gas Council moved to large new offices at 59 Bryanston Street, Marble Arch, London.
In the beginning of the 1970s, the gas industry was again restructured after the Gas Act 1972 was passed. The act merged all the area boards and created the British Gas Corporation, and abolished the Gas Council.
From its inception, the corporation was responsible for development and maintenance of the supply of gas to Great Britain, in addition to satisfying reasonable demand for gas throughout the country. Its leadership, like that of the area boards, was appointed and supervised by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry until 1974, when those powers were vested in the newly created position of Secretary of State for Energy.
The Conservative Government, led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher introduced the Gas Act 1986, which led to the privatisation of the company, and on 8 December 1986, its shares floated on the London stock market as British Gas plc. In the hope of encouraging individuals to become shareholders, the offer was advertised with the "If you see Sid... Tell him!" campaign.
The initial public offering of 135p per share valued the company at £9 billion.
In February 1997, eleven years after it had been privatised, British Gas plc demerged to become the entirely separate BG Group and the Gas Sales and Gas Trading, Services and Retail businesses.
The Gas Sales and Gas Trading and Services and Retail businesses, together with the gas production business of the North and South Morecambe gas fields, were transferred to Centrica, which continues to own and operate the British Gas retail brand.
British Gas acquired Dyno-Rod in October 2004. In May 2007, British Gas signed a landmark deal which saw 1,000 Volkswagen Caddy vans being supplied to the firm, which were fitted with a bespoke racking system and a speed limiter, designed by Siemens.
The deal was renewed in September 2015. In April 2016, it was announced that 224,000 residential customers had left the company, citing customers coming to the end of their fixed deals and then moving on to other suppliers as the main reason for this loss.
In the same month (April 2016) British Gas also announced it would be closing a call centre and office in Oldbury (West Midlands), with a loss of approximately 680 jobs. In May 2018, Centrica announced that British Gas had lost 100,000 customers since the start of the year. However, the parent company was still likely to hit its targets of 2018, and pay dividends of 12p per share.
British Gas is now led by chief executive, Sarwjit Sambhi, who oversees a business that provides energy and services to around ten million homes, and employs over 28,000 staff based across the United Kingdom. A further seven hundred job cuts in the United Kingdom were announced by Centrica in July 2019, amid growing marketplace challenges, which include the loss of 742,000 customers in 2018, and the government's price cap.
In April 2021, British Gas changed the contractual terms and conditions for thousands of its workers. Those who did not accept the changes by midday on 14 April 2021, were told to leave the firm. This resulted in a public outcry over the treatment of long-time workers, in particular over social media and with support from workers' unions and the opposition Labour Party.
Advertising, sponsorship and marketing
British Gas has actively been involved in sports sponsorship, including a six-year deal with the British swimming team which commenced in March 2009, and is expected to net the team £15 million, and from 2006 to 2009, it sponsored the Southern Football League of England.
The company's extensive television advertising has featured many high-profile individuals, and in the beginning of the 1990s, one advertisement included Cheryl Tweedy as a small child, more than ten years before the beginning of her pop music career. In November 2012, the Information Commissioner's Office publicly listed British Gas as one of a number of companies that it had concerns about due to unsolicited telephone calls for marketing.
The concerns were based on complaints. In response, British Gas said that "We uphold the highest standards when contacting people in their homes, and only use contact information if we have express permission to do so."
In July 2014, regulator Ofgem reached an agreement with British Gas for the company to pay £1 million in compensation to hundreds of people, who had been advised to switch from other suppliers to British Gas by British Gas advisers using exaggerated claims. On 20 September 2015, British Gas launched an advert, including their new mascot, Wilbur the Penguin.
Distribution network operators
British Gas is an energy supplier for homes across the country. The infrastructure (pipes) which delivers the gas to consumers is owned and maintained by other companies. They do not, however, manage the network of towers and cables that distributes electricity – these are maintained by distribution network operators (DNOs) which vary from region to region. If, for instance, there is a power outage it is necessary to contact the appropriate DNO rather than the energy supplier.
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- Official website
- Contact number Archived 29 July 2020 at the Wayback Machine
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