UK energy giant Centrica has now lost almost 1.5 million customer accounts in the space of five quarters as latest released figures show that the parent company of British Gas lost a further 382,000 customers in the first quarter of 2005, adding to the 1.1 million that left in 2004.

Centrica has been fighting a losing battle to hold on to customers ever since its price freeze promise ended in 2004 and after two tariff hikes last year. The latest reductions to the energy company’s consumer base have left total numbers at 17.7 million.

The market has taken a dim view of Centrica’s leaking bucket as shares fell to their lowest level in six months, sparking shareholder concern. This is in spite of the company reporting a 64% increase in gas profits and a 16% increase in overall profits for 2004.

Centrica, which increased prices last year by 5.9% in January and up to 12.4% in September, is unlikely to attract many customers back in the near future based on forecasts from chief executive Sir Roy Gardner. He has predicted that wholesale prices for this winter will be 40% higher than last winter, which points to more retail price rises in the pipeline.

Gardner has stated that no decision has been taken regarding upcoming price tariffs, although Centrica customers will no doubt be hoping that the energy titan will opt to absorb the increased production costs into its large profits instead of hitting them with another increase on their doormat.