Utility Regulator explores data sharing on vulnerable customer care registers

Northern Ireland’s Utility Regulator (UR) is consulting until 29 September on improving Northern Ireland Water’s (NIW) and Northern Ireland Electricity’s (NIE) vulnerable customers care register practices.

The regulator is not proposing any changes to the services provided by the two companies as it found these to be appropriate. Instead, the focus will be on raising awareness and promotion of the schemes – in part through compliant data sharing.

Specifically, Utility Regulator is consulting on proposals including:

• Services should continue to recognise the different levels of service required by customers with different needs. 
 • The two companies should use consistent names and language for their care registers. 
 • A customer eligible to join the NIE register should automatically be included on the NIW register. Meanwhile NIW should create a sub-set in its register of customers on or eligible to be on the NIE register. These proposals should ensure the most vulnerable customers get a comprehensive service, particularly during a major incident.
 • The companies should work together to improve awareness-raising and to improve relationships with third parties including health bodies. 
 • The two companies should explore compliant data sharing for the benefit of vulnerable customers. “For example, a data sharing agreement between NIE Networks and NIW, seeking express and informed consent from customers for their information to be shared between the two companies.” 
 • UR should set up an annual industry forum for care registers, for continuous engagement on monitoring progress –in particular to report the number of customers registered by each of the companies. It should also produce and distribute a promotional leaflet on the various services available.

The work is part of UR’s five-year Consumer Protection Strategy. The care register work is being conducted in two phases, with water and electricity network companies’ registers being looked at first, with gas network and energy supplier registers to follow.