Better use of data and information sharing to identify customers in vulnerable situations – August project update

Ofwat and Ofgem, through the UK Regulators Network (UKRN), are working together to explore the potential benefits, opportunities and challenges of sharing data across water and energy, to better identify customers in vulnerable situations. Our work so far has shown us that data sharing is just one part of a wider toolkit that companies working across both sectors can use to identify such customers and help them receive the additional, non-financial, support they need. Companies are already working together on signposting, multi-sign-up initiatives and referrals, but data sharing is not currently wide-spread. You can read more about this work in our previous updates; our January open letter and April blog.

Last month, to gain a wider consumer perspective on making better use of data to identify vulnerable customers, we engaged with consumer bodies and regulatory experts via a Customer Voice Forum on LinkedIn. We posed a series of questions and invited informal written responses. We also hosted a roundtable discussion with several consumer bodies to follow up on key points raised in the Forum. Participants focused in particular on the following themes.

  • Customer trust is an important factor in willingness to share data. It also depends ‘who is asking’, with a number of participants believing that customers are more willing to have their data shared with well-established companies and ‘trusted agents’.
  • Customers want to benefit from their data being shared, through better or more tailored services. Sometimes customers feel data is being collected and used solely for the benefit of companies (e.g. to sell products). Customers are keen to see wider societal benefits from sharing their data. So, for example, willingness to share data could increase if it would improve matters for others who are experiencing similar difficulties.
  • Customers want control over their data. They want to be able to withdraw consent to sharing when they choose. Tools or applications that make data easily accessible can help empower customers, especially those who may find it difficult to understand how and why their data is being collected and shared.

In the autumn we expect to publish our findings report. The report will bring together the findings from our research and engagement to identify the potential benefits, challenges and opportunities for greater data sharing across energy and water. It will also consider some broader developments, like the forthcoming introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations.

We are very grateful to all those who contributed their evidence and expertise through our forum and roundtable for providing their views.

If you would like any further information on our work, please contact vulnerability@ofgem.gov.uk or ukrn@ofwat.gsi.gov.uk.

For further information on UKRN please contact sophie.richings@ofcom.org.uk.

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