UPDATE 2-British Gas customers face 7 percent price rises

By Daniel Fineren LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Britain's biggest energy supplier, British Gas, became the second UK utility in two weeks to raise its prices on Friday, increasing domestic gas and electricity prices by an average of 7 percent from Dec. 10. The increase, which reverses a 7 percent cut in British Gas customers' gas bills announced in February, will hit around 8 million customers on standard and variable tariffs, the Centrica-owned company said. "We know that rising energy prices come at a difficult time for many in Britain," British Gas Managing Director, Phil Bentley, said. "That's why we are not raising prices for our vulnerable customers, such as the poorest pensioners, until after this winter." British Gas blamed rising wholesale gas prices and associated costs for the increases. Wholesale prices rose by more than any other major commodity in the first half of 2010 and by more than a third from January to November. EDF Energy said on Tuesday it would not raise gas or electricity prices for winter, with standard tariffs fixed until at least March 2011. But Scottish & Southern Energy said in late October it would increase household gas prices by 9.4 percent at the start of December. The other big utilities in Britain -- RWE npower, E.ON UK, and Iberdrola's Scottish Power -- have not yet announced any changes to their standard prices for this winter. "We currently have no plans to increase our prices," a spokesman for the UK arm of German utility E.ON told Reuters. Spokesman for Scottish Power and Npower said only that they continued to monitor the market. Suppliers will have to give consumers 30 days warning before raising their prices under a plan by energy regulator Ofgem which could come into force in January. Under current rules, suppliers can put up prices without notifying their customers for up to 65 days afterwards. (Additional reporting by Rosalba O'Brien, editing by Anthony Barker) ((daniel.fineren@reuters.com; +44 207 542 3083; Reuters Messaging: daniel.fineren.reuters.com@reuters.net)) (For more news, please click here) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.

The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.