Social Justice

Energy firm apologises for telling customers to do star jumps and hug pets to stay warm

Ovo Energy also advised people to eat ginger or cuddle pets instead of putting the heating on amid the energy crisis.

UK energy bills

Ovo Energy suggested people cuddle their pets to "stay cosy" to keep heating bills down. Image: Pexels

Ovo Energy has apologised for handing out “plainly offensive” tips on how to stay warm to customers struggling to pay UK energy bills.

The provider issued 10 suggestions which included doing star jumps, cuddling pets and leaving the oven open after cooking to fend off the cold during the energy crisis.

Labour MP Darren Jones told the Financial Times – which broke the story – that being “told to put on a jumper instead of turning on your heating if you can’t afford it, at a time of such difficulty for so many families, is plainly offensive”.

The blog, sent to SSE customers, also advised people to wear extra layers, eat porridge or clean the house to stay moving.

Millions of families across the UK are facing a cost of living crisis between soaring post-lockdown inflation, increasing living costs and eye-watering energy bills.

A dramatic increase in global wholesale gas prices over the past year has seen household fuel bills soar, with charges expected to increase by another 50 per cent in April when the price cap increases. Average UK energy bills could hit £2,000 per year for households paying a tariff by direct debit.

The government is reportedly examining ways to mitigate the impact on UK households, though Boris Johnson previously dismissed calls from Labour and a number of Conservative MPs to scrap VAT charges on domestic energy bills.

Ovo Energy apologised for the since-removed advice sent to SSE customers, admitting it was “embarrassed” by the “poorly judged and unhelpful” tips.

A spokesperson said: “We are embarrassed and sincerely apologise.

“We understand how difficult the situation will be for many of our customers this year.”

The blog also suggested people “stick to non-alcoholic drinks” because the “warming feeling from wine or whisky is temporary as you’ll soon lose heat from your core and end up feeling even colder”.

Customers could also eat ginger to “encourage blood flow” instead of turning their central heating on – but to avoid eating chilli because it “makes you sweat”.

“Many people are very anxious about rising energy bills and won’t take kindly to being told to do some star jumps,” said Theresa Villers, a Tory MP, adding that the tips were likely well-intentioned but “pretty insensitive”.

Labour MP Clive Lewis said the “clown-like” advice was “depressing”.

“It is laughable and insulting, but then with this government’s lack of an energy strategy, you almost expect it,” he said.

An Ovo spokesperson added: “We understand how difficult the situation will be for many of our customers this year. 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.”

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