Data sharing rules could prevent utility companies from best supporting vulnerable customers, according to British Gas’ director of vulnerability.

Speaking as part of Utility Week’s inaugural Consumer Vulnerability Conference, Steve Crabb said the extension of the safeguard tariff may mean that the Department for Work and Pensions will share the details of all customers eligible to receive the warm home discount “but ridiculously, we may not be able to put those people on the Priority Services Register (PSR) thanks to the new data sharing regulations.”

He went on to talk about the opportunities that data sharing presents. He said: “Data sharing could unlock real potential in identifying and supporting customers in need.

“Customers can find it uncomfortable to explain their situation to one provider let alone multiple utility providers. Data sharing could allow a customer to just share that information once.”

He added that third parties, such as charities, could also provide opportunities through data sharing, as often customers don’t feel comfortable sharing information with utility providers but are happy to talk to trusted third parties who can share on their behalf.

“There are currently 2.5 million people on the PSR, which sounds like a lot, but that’s only a quarter of the total customer base. I hope the safeguard tariff will help rather than hinder this figure going forwards.”