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Summary report on energy suppliers’ communication with consumers regarding smart meter data

12 January 2017

In 2014, our predecessor body Consumer Futures collaborated with Energy UK (the industry trade body) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on a research project (Smart and Clear) to evaluate supplier communication materials about the data choices that consumers are faced with when they agree to have a smart meter installed.

The research aimed to understand and establish what consumers want, need and expect from communications about their smart meter data, and to generate an initial ‘stencil’ of what such communications should look like for energy suppliers to make use of.

It also sought to address government’s call for what was then termed a ‘data charter’ for consumers; and identify any opportunities to build upon and improve draft supplier communications materials about the choices consumers can make about their smart meter data.

In Spring 2015 Citizens Advice issued an information request to energy suppliers about their existing smart meter data communication. We were interested to see how suppliers are discharging their duties in this area, and the extent to which they have implemented the principles established in Smart and Clear.

This Summary report on energy suppliers' communication with consumers regarding smart meter data is an analysis of that information request.

We recognise that we are early in the rollout process and that suppliers are still developing their materials. It is our hope that this report will help in this process by identifying best practice and areas concern.

Key findings

Quality of information

The quality and quantity of information provided to consumers regarding smart meter data varies between suppliers and aspects of smart meter data. In the best cases suppliers communicate clearly with consumers about their data choices and display this information prominently in communications materials. In the worst cases suppliers offer limited or no information, or relegate the information they provide to the small print.

Meeting the basic standards

While the information request revealed many examples of best practice, there are cases where we are concerned that some suppliers are not currently meeting what we would consider to be the basic standards on smart meter data communications, including suppliers limiting the data choices consumers can make and not having clear plans to provide updates to consumers on their data choices.

Using the Data Guide

The Data Guide was created in collaboration with industry and provides the basic information that consumers told us they needed to understand their smart meter data rights and choices. Our information request revealed that those suppliers with the least comprehensive information on smart meters also do not currently use the Data Guide. As such their customers are at greatest risk of not understanding the data implications of smart metering.