Midata is a method of electronically transferring customers’ data, with their consent, from a company system to a third party or price comparison website using an Application Programming Interface. For an energy consumer, this means that they can compare energy tariffs using the actual usage and account details held by the current supplier. Midata makes comparing tariffs quicker and easier and enables more accurate comparisons.
The Government has taken powers bestowed in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 that allow it to mandate third party electronic access to customers’ data in regulated sectors, including energy. It has been working with the energy sector since 2011 to develop proposals designed to put customers in control of their data. It has also worked to develop appropriate safeguards so that customers’ data is not misused and does not get into the wrong hands. Progress has been made to date, with seven of the larger energy suppliers voluntarily enabling customers the capability of downloading their data to a spread sheet. There has also been work completed to develop a design specification for the next phase of the Midata programme, which will move beyond downloading data to a spread sheet, to allow third parties to electronically access customers’ data with their consent.
Some questions remain, including determining:
- how to derive maximise benefit for consumers;
- how to ensure the quality of customer data suppliers provide;
- who can access the data, and;
- what safeguards should be in place to protect customers’ data from misuse.
A key aspect of Midata usage in the energy sector will be in ensuring that customers’ data is handled with the appropriate discretion by third parties and that energy suppliers provide Midata whenever it is requested by a customer. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to implement a monitoring and compliance regime. The Information Commissioner has enforcement powers against organisations which breach the Data Protection Act and as a result, there is no current evidence to suggest that new processes would be necessary for data misuse specifically for Midata in the energy sector. The information available will be:
- Post Code
- Current Provider
- Current Electricity Tariff
- Current Gas Tariff
- Current Payment Method
- Supply MPAN/MPR
- Annual usage
- Annual gas usage
- Estimated Annual Consumption
- Estimated Annual Cost
- Contract End Date
The Government is seeking responses to the questions outlined above from energy customers, customer organisations, energy supply companies, third party intermediaries and organisations with expertise in data protection as well as other interested parties. In addition we are seeking energy suppliers’ views on the cost of making the necessary changes and the length of time it would take to implement the requirements. Responses to this call for evidence will be used to inform draft regulations.
The consultation closes on 10th February 2017. We are formulating our response to the consultation and would welcome your feedback to incorporate into this. To have your say, please email the compliance team at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively complete the contact form. To discuss this further please call Melanie Kendall-Reid on 01252 87 87 22.