Ofgem energy customer database service

Mae’r dudalen yma ar gael yn Gymraeg.

Doing nothing costs you money. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) discovered this, as part of its investigation into the energy market: it’s not working for all energy consumers. 

This is because the people who stick with the same energy supplier year after year end up paying more than those who switch – collectively, £1.4bn per year more in fact, according to the CMA.

The CMA decided that one way to fix this was to create a service allowing suppliers to get in touch with you offering better deals. This will consist of a database to share information with energy suppliers run by Ofgem.

If you have been on an expensive standard variable tariff for over three years, rival suppliers to your current one will be able to offer you personalised deals that save you money. Ofgem is really strict about making sure they don’t bombard you with marketing, but instead make it easy for you to see how much money you could save.

When will this happen?

The service should go live in spring 2018. It’s early days at the moment and we’re only just starting work on the project. We’ll have to thoroughly test the service, and ensure all customer data is protected and secure. We also want to trial the service before we roll it out to make sure it works for consumers.

Why are Ofgem doing this?

The CMA said there are too many people spending more than they should on their energy bills. Two-thirds of consumers are on expensive variable rate tariffs. It wanted to make it as easy as possible for customers to engage in the energy market and save money. This recommendation means that customers can receive personalised energy deals straight to their door, so they don’t have search for them. It will then be easy to take that information and get a better energy deal if you want to. 

What will be stored on the customer database?

The database will only store data that is needed to allow other suppliers to provide you with an  offer personal to you. This will include your name, address, meter number, current supplier, meter type, annual energy consumption and your current tariff name. If you are on a restricted meter, further information may be needed about how much energy you use in different time periods.

Do I have to be part of the service? Can I opt out?

If you have been on a standard variable tariff with the same suppliers for three years or more, you will be asked if you want to opt out of being on the database. Your supplier will write to you , to tell you about the database service, how your data will be used, and the process for opting out (such as by email, telephone or post). Opting out will be simple and you’ll be able to do it at any time. Customers with impairments should consider joining their supplier’s Priority Services Register to make sure they get this information in an accessible format.

Won't this just mean lots of junk mail?

No. Suppliers won’t be allowed to use the database to send you general marketing information. This service means suppliers can provide you with personalised offers which will help you save money on your energy bill. You’ll then be able to use the information to help you change tariff, switch supplier or consider other deals.

How do I know if my data is secure?

Protecting your data is crucial to us. We will ensure all data protection requirements are met and will adopt publicly-recognised standards for data security. We will take tough enforcement action against any supplier who misuses the database. We’ll also work closely with consumer groups such as Which? and Citizens Advice to ensure we maintain the very highest consumer data protection standards.

I am happy with my supplier. Why should I move?

If you are happy with your supplier and you don’t want to get a better deal, that’s fine. You can opt out of having your information shared with other suppliers at any time and you won’t receive any information about other energy deals. However, many customers are paying more than they should for their energy. We want to make it easy for them to receive  information about good deals, switch supplier or change tariff if they want to, because they’ll save money by doing so.

I have an elderly relative, won't they get confused by this?

We know that there will be vulnerable consumers included in this service and as we develop the project we will ensure that their specific needs are met in the service design. We will be working with suppliers to ensure that the information on deals they send out is clear and easy to understand, and customers will be able to opt out of the database service if they wish.

What does the trial of the database involve?

A small number of customers from two suppliers (npower and EDF) are taking part in a trial. In January one group of customers will receive some marketing offers from other suppliers. Another group will receive a tailored letter from Ofgem setting out three personalised energy deals from other suppliers. Around 1,500 customers will be involved. We will be looking to see how many customers opted out and how many switched. We will also carry out more detailed research to understand the customer experience of taking part in the trial..

Isn't the trial just spamming people unnecessarily?

We do not want to launch a service on millions of customers without having tested it first. The participants in the trial were given an opportunity to opt out and the CMA’s intention was that customers could opt out of the full database remedy if they wanted to at any point. Suppliers won’t be allowed to use customer data for anything else and compliance with data protection legislation and security of customer data remains paramount.