EDF and Scottish Power are engaged in an energy price war to bring some much-needed positive news for households.

However, industry figures think the moves are to grow the pair's customer base rather than a sign prices are set to fall soon. In fact, the battle comes amid a rise in energy prices across the market.

Here is what's happened:

  • Scottish Power launched the cheapest fixed energy tariff last week, Online Fixed Saver Dec 2012, at a typical £1,020 for gas and electricity users;
  • EDF responded this morning by reintroducing its Fixed Saver Version 2 deal which costs a typical household £1,009 a year. This was originally pulled earlier this month;
  • Scottish Power then hit back hours later by offering £30 cashback on its deal, bringing it down to a typical £990 a year.

The Scottish Power tariff guarantees prices until 30 November next year and EDF to 30 September 2012. Both come with fees of up to £51 if you leave early.

Mark Todd, from price comparison website Energyhelpline.com, says: "Wholesale energy prices have not moved downwards over the last few weeks so these moves are all about grabbing new customers rather than a shift in the market.

"EDF and Scottish Power are the smallest of the big six so it is understandable that they would want to do their utmost to grow their customer base."

The price war comes amid a rise in energy prices, which is causing misery for millions of households already battling against the soaring cost of living.

Npower became the fifth of the big six energy firms to announce a rise in prices last week. Only EDF is yet to show its hand.

Should you fix?

Fixing has become a popular option for many households given it shields users against possible further rises.

What's more, fixes are generally cheaper than most providers' standard tariffs, which will rise to a typical £1,300 a year once all hikes have come into force.

However, it is possible to go even lower than a fix with a variable internet tariff, though you risk the cost exceeding that of a fix if prices rise again.

The risk with a fix is that if prices elsewhere in the market fall during the term of the deal it could prove a bad choice.

The energy market is complicated so before picking a particular tariff, it's important to check prices using a comparison site as costs can vary wildly depending on where you live and how much power you use.