Regulators hail data sharing and urge firms to up game in identifying vulnerable

UK energy and water regulators Ofgem and Ofwat have urged the utilities they regulate to be “more ambitious” in their efforts to identify vulnerable customers. The call came in a report published by the UK Regulators’ Network on improving data use in which the watchdogs found that “significant progress” had been made in data sharing between the companies.

The report is a follow up to a 2017 study in which the UKRN challenged the utilities to “explore

cross-sector non-financial vulnerability data sharing,” and to work together and

collaborate with Local authorities, voluntary organisations and other third parties to “support and

identify customers in vulnerable situations”

Sources for the findings in the current report included the results from a data sharing pilot between Electricity North West and United Utilities in the North West of England run by Water UK and the Energy Network Association. The firms shared data from some 2,000 customers across both companies who were eligible for priority services

According to the report, the pilot extended data sharing arrangements already available in energy to water. A working group found that with “a few tweaks and exceptions” 80%-90% of existing energy needs codes were relevant in water. This, it said, confirmed the value in sharing data between the two sectors to support their shared customers.

Key observations in the report included acknowledgement of the “resource-intensive

and complex” nature of matching data across different companies. It said: “Differences in

naming conventions and high levels of duplications required significant manual reconciliation," and added: "Developing a means of efficiently addressing this issue will expedite data sharing"

It noted also that the “human touch is crucial for securing consent for data sharing,” and that staff need to be well- trained, empathetic, to understand processes, and be confident in explaining benefits to customers.