Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said energy companies have a “massive” moral duty to customers, and criticised their “inexplicable” price increases.
Welby told the Mail on Sunday that the Big Six energy firms must be “conscious of their social obligations”.
He called on power companies to “behave with generosity and not merely to maximise opportunity” following price hikes from British Gas and SSE in the last week.
British Gas last week announced a 9.2% increase in prices. Its parent company Centrica made £2.7bn profit last year.
Last week SSE announced it will hike electricity and gas prices by an average 8.2%.
Welby said: “The impact on people, particularly on low incomes, is going to be really severe in this, and the companies have to justify fully what they are doing.”
He added: “I do understand when people feel that this is inexplicable, and I can understand people being angry about it, because having spent years on a low income as a clergyman I know what it is like when your household budget is blown apart by a significant extra fuel bill and your anxiety levels become very high. That is the reality of it.”
Welby spoke about how energy companies “have control” because they sell something everyone has to buy”. He said consumers “have no choice” about buying energy.
He said: “With that amount of power comes huge responsibility to serve society.
“It is not like some other sectors of business where people can walk away from you if they don’t want to buy your product and you are entitled to seek to maximise your profit.
“The social licence to operate of the energy companies is something they have to take very, very seriously indeed.”
The news comes as a Lloyds survey found three in four consumers are concerned about energy prices.
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