Energy supplier gives out free electric blankets to customers as heating bills soar

As British households struggle with rising electricity and gas bills, Octopus Energy has been praised for handing out 5,000 free electric blankets to its customers to help them keep warm.

As of 1 April, the UK’s energy price cap rose by an unprecedented 54 per cent, taking the average heating bill from £1,277 a year to almost £2,000, asking customers to find an additional £693 to accommodate rising wholesale global gas prices.

The largest price hike since records began, the increase coincides with inflation driving up the cost of everyday items like food, clothing and fuel while national insurance contributions and mortgage repayment rates are going up too, making for a bleak spring for many as charities warn low -income families could be driven into poverty.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has meanwhile been placed under intense pressure to do more to address the burgeoning cost of living crisis in the wake of his Spring Statement, having so far made only an aid package worth £350 available to help those struggling.

But according to a Uswitch estimate, using an electric blanket could be one viable (albeit partial) solution as they cost as little as 28p per hour to run at night, meaning wrapping up in one could provide a cheaper alternative to having the radiators on, although the site stresses that that figure will vary depending on which brand of blanket you have and what energy tariff you are on.

Speaking on LBC radio, Octopus chief executive Greg Jackson said there was “no hiding” the fact that energy costs have risen “dramatically” and that the cost of living crisis is “very real”, particularly for those who had recently lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and can no longer afford to meet their bills.

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“Where people do their very best, companies like ours will work with them to get payment plans in place, to provide some assistance, to work with them on their whole income and expenditure,” he said, assuring listeners his company would not send debt collectors around customers’ homes to bully them into paying.

Warning that prices could rise even further next winter, depending on the global situation, the weather and the consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Mr Jackson said: “Global energy prices is one of the most volatile markets and so it’s a fool who will make a strong prediction.

“But what we do know is that the next energy price cap period is being set by the prices we’re seeing now, because there’s a sort of lag in the system. So, unless there’s a very rapid fall in global prices, energy costs for people in the UK will stay high over the winter. They could even be higher. We just don’t know.”

Octopus customers who would like an electric blanket are advised to request one via the company’s online assistance tool, although it warns that “stocks are very low” already and that those most in need will be prioritized.

The gesture has so far been well received and makes a stark contrast to the pitiful efforts of other providers, who have been derived of late for advising their customers to do star jumps or cuddle their pets to stay warm.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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