Faster Switching Programme gears up for re-commencing

Due to be issued this week, the sixth edition of our Faster Switching Service Report details the Switching Programme’s re-planning exercise as well as industry participants’ progress on data cleansing.

The Switching Programme is facilitating the industry’s move towards new arrangements from March 2022, which should see domestic customers able to request to switch and be with their new supplier by midnight the next working day (non-domestic switches have an extra 24 hours built in). Another aspect of the programme looks to increase not just the speed of switching, but also the reliability of doing so, in the hope that this will make consumers more confident and thus more likely to engage with the market. Improvements in reliability will be supported through market participants cleansing their data in advance of it being sent to the Central Switching Service (CSS) prior to go-live. It will then be used by the DCC-procured Address Service to pair it with the standard GB address data it most closely matches, thereby reducing the volume of address mismatches.

Amid the ongoing six-month delay due to COVID-19, the focus during Q2 20 has been on the Full Plan Review ahead of programme re-mobilisation and re-engagement.

A “Re-engagement Survey” was issued in June to assess programme participants’ readiness to commence programme activities. Following an initial series of industry consultation meetings, it was noted by the Delivery Group that although the majority of market participants considered themselves ready to start re-engagement, some non-domestic suppliers and those with a disproportionate number of vulnerable customers had voiced concerns about their ability to re-engage. While a number of market participants are continuing to respond COVID-19 impacts, the regulator is set to consider how it can offer flexibility to parties who need to direct time and resources to supporting vulnerable customers, for example.

Additionally, key supplier feedback on User Entry Process Testing (UEPT) entry and exit times resulted in a three-week deferment to entry, moving it further away from the Christmas period.

At the start of August, Ofgem hosted a walkthrough of the draft version of the revised programme plan. Since then, the dates set out have been revised, with the release of the final version of the Full Plan for Impact Assessment extended by three weeks to 18 September 2020.

During the latest reporting period, we also saw the regulator publish a number of draft schedules for the interim Retail Energy Code REC (REC v1.1) as well as new draft schedules for versions 2 and 3. The interim REC is due to become effective in December 2020 alongside the respective draft revised schedules.

Versions 2 and 3 are set to go-live simultaneously, with six new schedules published on 10 July, ahead of formal consultation. These include draft schedules on Market Exit, smart meter installation and the secure Data Exchange Service.

Results from RECCo’s procurement exercise are expected to be announced in mid-September and will allow the new REC service providers 11 months to mobilise in advance of the REC going live in September 2021.

Following our previous commentary on parties underperforming in relation to data cleansing targets, it was noted by the Data Working Group (DWG) that progress on the related Meter Point Administration Numbers (MPANs) cleansing had decreased slightly following the three-month supplier relief period. Gemserv (as the MRA Secretariat) clarified however, that despite being under review, existing cleanse targets still apply and will apply until they are formally changed.

Despite a six-month delay to UEPT and a three-month relief period, the programme has been tracking Amber since June 2020. Prior to COVID-19-related delays, the programme was overcome with poor performance on data cleansing activities with parties having been urged to engage in data cleansing since September 2018. On electricity, the DWG noted on 22 July that plot to postal instances (i.e. instances where the word ‘plot’ is present in the first three lines of the address field, e.g. on new housing developments) had reduced by 86% since April 2018 for both suppliers and Distribution Network Operators. Additionally, it was noted at the previous DWG meeting that the related MPAN sub-group had been put on hold until September 2020.

Once the programme has formally restarted, we are expecting two consultations in October. This includes a relatively short consultation on REC v1.1 and another on draft REC versions 2 and 3, licence changes and resultant changes to other codes, notably the MRA and SPAA. We recommend you note these schedules and either start considering them now, or prepare to allocate resources to consider them when these consultations are launched.

We provide regular coverage of these issues and others affecting the Switching Programme in our quarterly Faster Switching Service. For more information, contact Emma Bill on 01603 542127.

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