Citizens Advice response to Ofgem’s Decision for access to half-hourly electricity data for settlement purposes
Citizens Advice welcomes the decision to retain a consumer opt-out of sharing half-hourly data. Consumer choice and the ability to control and ultimately realise the value of their data is a fundamental tenet of the smart meter rollout.
We are however concerned at the proposal in paragraph 1.42 which will grant suppliers access to data for forecasting and settlement purposes at daily granularity if a consumer has opted out of sharing it half-hourly. Consumers currently have the ability to opt-out of smart meter data collection of any detail greater than a monthly read, so this represents a significant reduction in consumers’ ability to control how much personal data they share.
Ultimately, consumers are paying for the smart meter rollout. Energy usage data is personal data, from which suppliers can draw significant savings and benefits. The consumer opt-outs provide key leverage to help ensure that these savings are passed on to consumers through benefits in exchange for supplier access to more detailed consumer data. Citizens Advice is concerned that this reduction in consumer control risks undermining that principle.
Our forthcoming research on consumer attitudes to smart meter data has found that consumers feel reassured by the existence of the opt-outs (89% consider the ability to opt-out important) even where they do not make use of them, and that many consumers with privacy concerns felt particularly reassured by their existence.
Many consumers will have accepted a smart meter on the basis that they have the ability to reduce supplier access down to one meter read a month should they wish to. The proposed removal of this option will effectively change the terms under which these consumers agreed to have a smart meter installed. Citizens Advice understands suppliers will be obliged to inform consumers of this change to data collection when a customer changes tariff or switches supplier: however, it is not yet clear what the options will be for people who do not wish to accept these new terms.