Ofgem recommends data sharing changes to protect vulnerable customers



Legislation to introduce the so-called safeguard tariff for vulnerable customers could be brought forward early next year, the business and energy secretary, Greg Clark has told MPs.

Responding to a recent letter from Rachel Reeves, chair of the BEIS (business, energy and industrial strategy) select committee, Clark said that legislation to implement the tariff could be brought forward in “early” 2018, subject to other Parliamentary business.

Reeves pressed Clark to reveal the government’s plans for data sharing arrangements for vulnerable customers.

Ofgem has recommended changes to data sharing arrangements to enable customers on means-tested benefits to be protected by its safeguard tariffs without having to contact their supplier.

In his letter, Clark agreed it is “important” to “make better use of government data to target low income and vulnerable customers who are most at risk of fuel poverty”.

He explained the regulations for implementing the Digital Economy Act, which was passed earlier this year, offer an opportunity to allow government data to be better used to target customers who would be eligible for reduced bills.

Clark said the BEIS department is working with the Cabinet Office, the Department of Work and Pensions and Ofgem on how the Digital Economy Act could be used to extend the safeguard tariff to cover more vulnerable customers.

“We will look very carefully at how data sharing with energy suppliers should work so that vulnerable customers can be identified while maintaining appropriate protection of sensitive data.

“Officials in the relevant departments are liaising closely on the detail of operation.”

Under Ofgem’s plans for a safeguard tariff, price caps for all customers on prepayments meters will be extended to a million customers eligible for the Warm Home Discount (WHD) in February next year.

However, restrictions on sharing data about households’ circumstances means up to 2 million customers who could benefit from the tariff may miss out because they do not receive the WHD.

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