* SSE to cut gas prices by 4.5 pct from March 26
* Centrica cuts electricity prices by 5 pct
* Other big suppliers expected to follow suit
* SSE, Centrica shares down about 1 percent
By Karolin Schaps and Adveith Nair
LONDON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Two of Britain’s biggest utilities, Centrica and SSE, said on Thursday they would cut energy prices, a day after EDF Energy became the first of the UK’s ‘big six’ energy suppliers to bring down tariffs.
SSE said it would cut prices of household gas by 4.5 percent from March 26 and extend its commitment to cap household electricity and gas prices by another two months to October.
“I hope that this package of measures will give our customers some respite from the seemingly endless rises in household costs that we have seen in recent times,” Alistair Phillips-Davies, generation and supply director at SSE, said.
“The cut in household gas bills shows customers that we will bring down prices when we can.”
SSE’s announcement came after Centrica, which owns Britain’s largest gas supplier British Gas, unveiled plans to cut household electricity prices by 5 percent with immediate effect.
Britain’s six largest energy suppliers, which control 99 percent of the retail market, have come under growing pressure to cut tariffs as wholesale prices, which make up half of the costs of energy bills, have fallen due to mild winter weather and the weakening economy.
Thursday’s price cuts and Wednesday’s announcement by EDF Energy increase the pressure on the three remaining companies, RWE npower, Scottish Power and E.ON , to follow suit.
“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 and external affairs at Consumer Focus.
Centrica said on Thursday it was unable to cut gas bills as long-term costs for the fuel remained high despite some short-term wholesale price falls.
“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,” said Ian Peters, managing director of energy at British Gas.
Last autumn energy suppliers angered already cash-strapped Britons, when they raised average energy bills by double digits.