Heating and electricity utility British Gas attempted to head off public anger over a price hike by inviting customers to a Twitter chat just hours after the increase was announced Thursday.
What the company got instead was more vitriol than it could handle. According to The Guardian, 16,000 people tweeted at British Gas using the #AskBG hashtag, and nearly every tweet was a knockout punch. Many of them included “greed” and/or “death.”
The price hike in question is a double whammy: Electricity rates will go up by 10.4 percent and the gas tariff will increase by 8.4 percent starting Nov. 23. The average annual cost of energy will go up £120.
Ian Peters, managing director of British Gas Residential Energy, said the price increase is a result of skyrocketing costs. He also defended the choice to hold the Twitter chat.
“I would not describe this as a PR disaster,” Peters told The Guardian
. “We have made a commitment to be open and transparent. These are tough decisions we have had to take in tough times, and it would not be right of us to hide away and not explain ourselves.”
Many of the utility’s explanations—it largely referred customers to its website and a phone line for people struggling to pay bills—got lost in the pile-on, however. Maybe waiting a few days after the announcement would have given customers a chance to cool off.
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London Loves Business
posted a screenshot of a British Gas job listing for a social media manager, noting that Twitter commentators were speculating over whether the vacancy had anything to do with Thursday’s chat.