HAMPSHIRE consumers are being urged to desert an energy giant that is set to raise its prices by almost ten per cent next month.

Energy minister Michael Fallon led calls for customers to switch suppliers following SSE’s decision to increase gas and electricity charges by three times the rate of inflation.

Last night analysts forecast that the average SSE bill in Hampshire would rise from £1,274 to £1,409 – a hike of £135.

Mr Fallon said: “The best answer here is more competition.

“I would encourage customers to look at the tariffs they’re on and see if they can switch. That competition is best.”

Jeremy Cryer, energy spokesman at Gocompare.com, issued a similar call to Hampshire households already struggling to make ends meet.

He said: “If people want to ensure that they don’t spend more than they need to on the energy they use this winter, they should shop around now to find the best tariff.”

But other organisations warned that SSE’s decision to “break ranks” could result in some of its rivals following suit.

SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, is raising its prices in the south by 8.9 per cent from November 15.

Elderly people are expected to be particularly hard hit, despite the winter fuel allowance.

Age UK, which has 22 branches across Hampshire, said: “Energy bills are already a huge concern for many pensioners, who will be dreading this new round of price hikes.

“Thousands of older people face a daily battle to stay warm during winter, risking their health by keeping the heating low to avoid running up bills they can’t afford.”

SSE bosses blamed the rising cost of buying and delivering supplies as well as Government levies collected through bills, despite the firm making a pre-tax profit of £1.41 billion.

They apologised for the increase and pledged not to raise tariffs again until November next year.