Centrica and SSE join gas bill price war

THE ENERGY price war between the UK’s big six companies escalated yesterday as Centrica-owned British Gas cut its electricity tariff by five per cent and SSE announced a gas price reduction of 4.5 per cent.

British Gas has now cut its electricity prices by five per cent with immediate effect, while Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) will reduce gas tariffs by 4.5 per cent on 26 March.

The cuts will add to the pressure on the rest of the major suppliers to cut their prices as wholesale prices dip. British Gas said the average annual domestic bill would fall by £24.

But the price cuts only partially reverse British Gas’s eye-watering 18 and 16 per cent hikes in its gas and electricity bills over the summer.

SSE raised its gas bills by 18 per cent and its electricity by 11 per cent in September. It promised at the time to avoid any further hikes until August – a pledge it yesterday extended for two months until October.

Ian Peters from British Gas said: “We want to keep prices as low as possible for our customers. Household budgets are stretched, and we are doing everything we can to help our customers keep their bills down.”

But the firm said it could not cut gas prices as long-term costs for the fuel remained high.

EDF fired the first salvo in the current price cuts by announcing on Wednesday plans to lower its domestic gas tariff by an average of five per cent owing to low energy use during the mild winter.

Scottish Power, E.ON and Npower are now under the spotlight.

“The heat is now on for others to follow suit and help ease the pressure of high energy bills for their customers,” said Adam Scorer, director of policy at Consumer Focus.