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Customers seeking cheap gas and electricity should switch energy suppliers before recent price rises come into effect - or face having to pay exit penalties.

Four of the UK's 'Big Six' energy suppliers have announced price rises for gas and electricity tariffs in recent weeks - with British Gas, Scottish and Southern Power and E.ON rises coming over the next month. Scottish Power has already made its price rises a reality.

Under consumer rules, customers are allowed to switch energy suppliers, without paying an exit fee, after price rises are announced - but they only have 30 days in which to do so.

That means Scottish Power customers who wanted to avoid the company's rises have now missed the chance to leave without paying an exit fee.

However, British Gas, E.ON and Scottish and Southern Power customers still have time to switch energy providers without being penalised - for British Gas, the shut-off date is August 17, for E.ON it is September 12 and for Scottish and Southern Energy, it is September 13.

Customers wishing to change energy suppliers after the 30 day cut-off will have to stump up an extra exit fee - so it's worth checking energy comparison sites as soon as possible to see if a better deal is available.

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