Bill shock as energy costs set to soar this autumn

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Energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy has handed its 8.4 million customers an autumn headache. Their bills will soar by around 9 per cent from 15 October.

Britain's second-largest energy supplier, which trades under the names Southern Electric, Scottish Hydro and Swalec, will charge an extra £119 a year to the average dual fuel customer.

The move sparked fears that rival Big Six suppliers will soon announce their own crippling increases, forcing more families than ever into fuel poverty, when energy bills account for a tenth of their available income. Money-saving expert Martin Lewis said consumers should look to fix their energy deals before the price hikes hit home.

"SSE's increase needs to be a clarion call for every company's energy customers," he said.

"Most are already paying over £200 a year more than they need to. If the energy companies bleat like sheep again and follow SSE in putting prices up, people who don't act will need to choose between heating and eating this winter."

SSE had previously pledged to hold its household energy prices at existing levels until at least October 2012. This week it proudly trumpeted the fact that it had kept to its pledge and then promised to cap household energy prices at the increased level until at least the second half of 2013.

On that basis we should expect the next gas and electricity price hikes in July next year.