Points for trying: switching data cleanse struggles over the line

While Ofgem has been pressing the industry to cleanse its data ahead of the future switching arrangements, the Switching Programme has missed one of its data checkpoints by a noticeable margin, prompting remedial actions.

The Switching Programme is moving the industry towards new arrangements from July 2021, 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). However, an underappreciated aspect of the programme is that it is looking to increase not just the speed of switching, but also the reliability of doing so, in the hopes this will make consumers more confident and thus more likely to engage.

Fundamental to this is a massive industry data cleanse particularly focused on linking up meter point locations with property addresses, so that a new refined Retail Energy Location (REL) dataset can be created for use by the Central Switching Service. Foremost among this has been the cleansing of related Meter Point Administration Numbers (MPANs) – where multiple meters points have been linked, as they are assigned to a single site and therefore should be switched together.

By 31 January, 70% of all MPAN “split pots” and 90% of “single pots” were to be cleansed. In short, the difference is whether the related MPANs at a site are split across more than one supplier or served by the same supplier. Figures reported to the Data Working Group on 19 February show that actual progress was 41% and 62%, respectively, being roughly a third behind schedule for both.

This is disappointing, considering that Ofgem has been urging industry parties to engage in data cleansing since September 2018. As a result, the regulator has set out a series of remedial actions to address the issue. This includes contacting poor-performing suppliers to understand their mitigation plans, improving how the issue is tracked, and consideration of additional actions to support suppliers. On the basis that this should bring the programme back on track, the Data Working Group agreed to approve the checkpoint as being met. However, Ofgem noted that there would need to be “steep reduction” in MPANs still to be cleansed if the next checkpoint is to be achieved: for 85% of split pots and 100% of single points to be cleansed by 31 May.

It will come as little surprise to industry veterans that data cleansing is harder than Ofgem hoped, but the Switching Programme is an opportunity for a fresh start that should not be missed, especially considering the ever-more data-driven world we are finding ourselves in. If they want to avoid storing up problems for the future, suppliers should make sure they continue to engage with cleansing efforts such as reconciling against networks’ data sets and providing the DCC with the data it needs to create RELs.

We provide regular coverage of this issue and others affecting the Switching Programme in our quarterly Faster Switching Service. For more information, contact Steven Britton at s.britton@cornwall-insight.com on 01603 542126.

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