By Daniel Hunter

Cold weather at the start of the year has seen gas use increase by 18% in 2013, according to Centrica, the company that owns British Gas.

The company said UK residential gas use was up 18%, and electricity use by 3%.

Centrica said the cold weather had also affected its services business, which had seen costs rise because of a higher number of call outs.

The company said the weak economy was also having an effect, with fewer people installing new heating systems.

However, it added that said it expected full-year profits to be in line with forecasts.

Last year, the company faced criticism for increasing its prices. British Gas raised its gas and electricity charges by 6% in November.

"Recognising the economic pressures facing many of our customers, the board has determined that any benefit arising from the exceptionally cold weather will be used to maintain our price competitiveness," Centrica's statement said.

"As a result of this decision, we expect the residential energy supply business to deliver an operating profit for the full year in line with expectations, weighted towards the first half."

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