Anger as Ovo Energy group tells customers to ‘cuddle a pet’ to stay warm

Company's advice on how to keep heating costs low deemed ‘insulting’

Ovo Energy, the UK's third-biggest energy company, said customers could save on heating bills by cuddling their pets and putting on extra layers of clothing. Getty Images
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One of Britain’s largest energy companies has apologised for telling customers to cuddle a pet and eat porridge to stay warm and save on heating bills.

Ovo Energy sent out advice including 10 “simple and cost effective ways to keep warm this winter” to customers of SSE Energy Services, the business it acquired in 2020.

The company sent customers a link to a blog advising them to warm up by putting on a few extra layers of clothing, doing a few star jumps and cutting out alcohol.

People were also told they could have “a cuddle with your pets and loved ones to help stay cosy” and eat ginger to warm up – but the company said chilli should be avoided “as it makes you sweat”.

In a section titled "find extra heat" people were told, "You don't always need to rely on your central heating to stay warm. Here are some lesser-known ways to find extra warmth from other sources."

"Open your curtains when it's sunny, to warm your home naturally," was one tip.

Millions of households across Britain are facing rising energy bills. PA

Customers were also told to "keep your oven open after you've finished cooking" but take care to keep pets and young children away from it.

Ovo's tips to find extra heat
  • Open your curtains when it’s sunny
  • Keep your oven open after cooking
  • Have a cuddle with pets and loved ones to help stay cosy
  • Eat ginger but avoid chilli as it makes you sweat
  • Put on extra layers
  • Do a few star jumps
  • Avoid alcohol

The advice, distributed as millions of people in the UK brace themselves for energy bills to rise by hundreds of pounds, were described as inappropriate and “plainly offensive” by Members of Parliament.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week said there was only so much help the Conservative government could offer to households facing increasing bills.

After the story was first published by the Financial Times, Darren Jones, a Labour MP and chairman of the business select committee, called on Ovo to say sorry to their customers for the “insensitive” comments.

Many members of the public took to social media to voice their disapproval of Ovo’s guidance, with some calling the comments "cruel".

One Twitter account called Growing Solutions suggested that instead of telling people how to warm up, Ovo should have offered a more meaningful solution to rising energy bills such as reducing its profit margin for the interim period “to alleviate the pressures” on its customers.

Ovo said it was “embarrassed” to have issued “poorly judged and unhelpful” guidance.

“We understand how difficult the situation will be for many of our customers this year,” the group said. “We are working hard to find meaningful solutions as we approach this energy crisis, and we recognise that the content of this blog was poorly judged and unhelpful. We are embarrassed and sincerely apologise.”

Mr Jones then wrote on Twitter: “Good, I'm glad they apologised. I'm not sure who signed off a marketing campaign telling people to wear a jumper and eat porridge instead of turning on the heating if you can't afford it.”

Energy bills in Britain are expected to rise by more than half to £2,000 a year per household when the price cap is adjusted in April.

Amid rising gas prices, Shell's profits were "significantly" boosted by the energy crisis, it said.

Updated: January 11, 2022, 9:11 AM
Ovo's tips to find extra heat
  • Open your curtains when it’s sunny
  • Keep your oven open after cooking
  • Have a cuddle with pets and loved ones to help stay cosy
  • Eat ginger but avoid chilli as it makes you sweat
  • Put on extra layers
  • Do a few star jumps
  • Avoid alcohol
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