Big Six energy provider SSE has become the first major supplier to promise a price freeze this winter, capping them at their current levels until "at least" next April.
SSE supplies energy to more than 8m customers in Britain and Ireland. The group's statement on household gas and electricity prices follows recent speculation that the UK's major suppliers have been eyeing up price freezes for the first time in three years.
A rise in wholesale prices make household energy hikes more likely in the New Year, switching site Energy Helpline said earlier this week, and average energy prices have risen seven per cent in two months this autumn, according to MoneySuperMarket.
Will Morris, managing director of retail at SSE, said:
We understand that the prospect of increasing bills during the colder months is a real concern for customers, particularly as they start to turn up the heating. So today we’re giving them peace of mind that no matter what happens we will not increase our standard household energy prices during the winter, until at least next April.
This follows our unique two and a half year price freeze in March 2014, since which time we’ve also cut prices three times for our standard customers as we work to keep prices as low as possible for as long as possible.
MoneySavingExpert knocked SSE despite the pledge. "This may seem good news on the surface but anyone on SSE's standard tariff is almost certainly already overpaying, possibly by £100s a year, so people shouldn't see this as a message to rest on their laurels," said Guy Anker, managing editor of MoneySavingExpert.
"The way to save is to urgently lock in to a cheap fix, with urgent being the key word. The price of the cheapest new customer deals is soaring – up for a typical household by £100/yr in the last 6 months."
This week, research from price comparison site uSwitch found a third of working families were already struggling to foot their energy bills, despite there being no "major" price hikes for almost three years.
Shortly before SSE's statement, renewable power firm Good Energy became the first supplier to guarantee it will not raise its gas and electricity prices this winter.
The green energy provider, which has more than 72,000 electricity customers and 43,000 gas customers, has promised to freeze its prices until the beginning of March at the very earliest.
"We're freezing our gas and electricity price this winter to give our customers peace of mind and no nasty shocks," said David Brooks, managing director at Good Energy.
Britain's Big Six energy providers