Jonathan Oxley’s opening remarks from the fourth UKRN-LTIIA joint seminar on infrastructure regulation, hosted by Pinsent Masons on 10 September 2019.
The UKRN has written to the Public Accounts Committee in response to its July report on consumer protection. The report found that many consumers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, had difficulty accessing services in water, energy, telecoms and financial services and stressed the importance of regulators working closely together to improve outcomes for consumers. Our letter sets out our members commitment to collaboration and sets out some of the ways in which all of our members are working together to improve consumer outcomes.
UKRN has published the 2019 cost of capital report. The report provides a summary of the most recent cost of capital decisions and analysis by each regulator, providing an easily accessible reference document for those interested in our sectors. It also sets out where regulators share a common approach, and where approaches diverge to reflect differences between sectors, regulatory timings and structures. The report is the product of the UKRN’s cost of capital network. The network brings together specialists from across UKRN members to share expertise and best practice, and to develop shared approaches where appropriate. The cost of capital is an important input into regulators’ price control decisions, helping ensure companies have an incentive to invest and the opportunity to earn a fair return on those investments. UKRN members will continue to work collaboratively on these issues, learning from each other, sharing best practice and, where appropriate, aligning our approaches.
Data is transforming the way infrastructure companies work and has become a new asset to manage that underpins every sector. Sharing data within sectors, and between sectors, is essential for ensuring we have well-performing infrastructure that meets people’s needs, as well as having the potential to generate significant economic benefits. The UKRN, working with consultants Black & Veatch, has published a report on the extent of infrastructure data sharing currently taking place across the transport, water, energy and telecoms sectors; the role of the regulators; and potential barriers inhibiting the progress of sharing data. The report was developed through a series of interactive sessions and discussions with representatives from infrastructure companies, government and regulators. It confirms that there is already much exciting activity in this area, and a growing industry commitment to share data. The report also identifies some key developments that contributors believe will drive positive change and create better collaborative working environments throughout the infrastructure industry: · Regulatory support and guidance on data, including best practice guidelines; · A common data standard, definitions and shared framework; · A central data portal that holds the ‘what, where and who’ for all assets in the infrastructure industry; and · Organisational ownership, culture change and targets on data sharing.
UKRN, with the FCA, Ofcom, Ofgem, Ofwat and the Consumer Council for Water, have been working together to develop a set of performance scorecards to measure the customer experience across key sectors. Today we have published our Performance Scorecards Progress Note, setting out where we have got to and how we will be taking this work forward. Transparent, high quality performance information is an important tool for identifying where consumers are being well-served and where performance needs to improve. In April 2018, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s Green Paper, Modernising Consumer Markets, proposed that Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat and the FCA, through the UK Regulators Network, would develop performance metrics for companies and digital comparison tools operating in their sectors, where relevant. The progress note summarises the work to date, highlighting the collaborative approach taken across the regulators. It also sets out the next steps for the work, including our intention to publish the first iteration of scorecards by the end of 2019. For more information on the work please contact the UKRN team on firstname.lastname@example.org
The UKRN has today published a joint UKRN-OPG Guide to Power of Attorney, entitled: ‘Supporting customers who do not make their own decisions’. This guide has been written by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) in partnership with the UK Regulators Network (UKRN), Ofcom, Ofwat, Ofgem and the Financial Conduct Authority and in conjunction with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It is intended to help policy makers in financial services and utility companies provide straightforward and consistent information for staff, which will make the process easier for customers. In a joint foreword to the guide, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at BEIS, Kelly Tolhurst, and Ministry of Justice Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Edward Argar, said: “Powers of attorney are a valuable tool that helps some of our country’s most vulnerable people have their affairs managed before or when they have lost mental capacity. However, those who act in the best interests of adults at risk often find the process of dealing with the companies they rely on both confusing and inconsistent. This guide sets out clear policies and advice. It provides clarity to the law and helpful information which can ease the burden and stresses that new and current care givers face on a day-to-day basis, by making their simple transactions as smooth and problem free as possible.” The Guide is targeted at firms operating in the telecoms, energy, water and financial services sectors specifically. You can read the full text of the Guide here.
Water UK and ENA joint response to ‘Making better use of data to identify customers in vulnerable situations: A follow-up report.’
Water UK and ENA have published their joint reponse to the UKRN, Ofgem, Ofwat report Making better use of data to identify customers in vulnerable situations: A follow-up report. Key messages from the response The project remains well placed to deliver priority services data sharing between energy networks and water companies across England and Wales by April 2020, although there are challenges and the companies are therefore ensuring the focus and resources are in place to overcome these and ensure delivery. The letter sets out the key milestones that will need to be met for national roll out to be delivered. Customer trust in the process is key. The pilot has demonstrated the need for staff training to secure this trust and explain the benefits to customers and these lessons are being embedded in the project as it is rolled out. At the heart of this project is the ambition to make it easier for customers to interact with, and have equal access to, services that they need. The letter emphasises that throughout this project, and beyond, companies will continue to look for opportunities to make the priority services registration experience seamless and as stress-free as possible.
Innovation delivers benefits for citizens, consumers and the economy and is high on the agenda for UKRN members. We were therefore pleased to see the government’s recent consultation on innovation in regulated utilities, which recognises the work regulators are doing in this area. The UKRN’s response focuses on the importance of innovation, the role of regulators in encouraging and facilitating greater innovation while ensuring consumers remain protected, and the role of the UKRN in facilitating knowledge sharing and learning across the regulators in this area.