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Ofgem accuse Data Communications Company of running “too many consultations”

TCI Commentary:

Don’t consult enough and you can be challenged. Consult too often and you can give consultees consultation fatigue. Of course, it is good practice to involve people in changes you are making, but consultation is just one method of gaining valuable insight on an issue. Using this method for uncontroversial issues can lead to consultees becoming disengaged and subsequently a low response rate. Shake it up! Use different methods of engagement to keep people interested; only consult when you need to.


The Data Communications Company (DCC) has been accused of running “too many consultations” in the responses to one of its own consultations.

Ofgem challenged the company, which is responsible for migrating SMETS1 smart meters to its central network, to “rethink and improve” its approach to engagement with customers and stakeholders and in particular in relation to its cost base.

In their replies to the DCC consultation held in December, industry stakeholders made suggestions as to how the company could improve its engagement.

Several observations were made including the fact that the DCC runs “too many formal consultations” and that customers cannot respond to them all.

It also found that smaller energy suppliers “need more support” to engage with DCC including prioritisation of their engagement, simpler and targeted communications and better utilisation of appropriate channels.

Following the consultations, the DCC said: “Ultimate accountability for the decisions that we make rests with the DCC board however, we are determined to address the feedback from Ofgem and industry.

“We have therefore developed a new approach to engagement that will deliver improved transparency for our
customers whilst ensuring we continue to deliver our commitments at pace.”

The DCC says its six key principles will put both its customers and the energy industry “at the heart” of its future plans.

  • Simple, targeted and proportionate engagement which will fall into one of three categories – inform, shape, vote.
  • Clear signalling on what customers will be consulted on, when and how, with clear feedback on how engaging customers has shaped the DCC’s decision making.
  • Engagement will be linked to internal decision-making processes to ensure that customer views are sought and considered throughout the life-cycle of programmes and projects.
  • Increased transparency – sharing the evidence base for decisions where competition law and commercial sensitivities allow and sharing with customers the feedback received.
  • Better use of external governance frameworks, particularly the SEC panel and its sub-forums, to support engagement.
  • Improving the organisation’s digital offering, and a new customer portal to provide customers with a single platform for accessing DCC documents and to improve the traceability of engagement.

The DCC’s chief regulatory officer, Siobhan Stanger, said: “I’m absolutely committed that we improve the way we engage and consult so that the energy industry is genuinely involved in developing the DCC’s future at the heart of the smart meter rollout and Britain’s move towards cleaner energy.”


This article originally appeared on Utility Week

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