Out-Law News 1 min. read

Smart meter privacy rules extended to 'remote access meter' suppliers

Suppliers of 'remote access' energy meters in the UK have six months to give consumers greater control of their consumption data, under new licensing conditions set by Ofgem.

The energy regulator decided (18-page / 315KB PDF) to subject remote access meter suppliers to the same 'privacy requirements' imposed on suppliers of new smart meters.

"We have decided to extend these rules because consumers with remote access meters may not currently have the same level of control as consumers with smart meters in respect of the consumption data that suppliers can access from their meters," Ofgem said. "We think that these consumers should have the same level of control. We did not receive any arguments that have made us change our position."

"This ensures fair and consistent treatment of consumers. It also ensures that suppliers have the right incentives to properly explain to consumers the benefits of allowing suppliers to have access to more granular data," it said.

Remote access meters come in a variety of forms and have similar functionality to smart meters in that they remotely send consumption data to the supplier.

New smart meters will be installed across the UK from the end of this year. Those meters will generate much more detailed data on energy consumption in the home. To reflect the extra granularity of the data, smart meter suppliers must comply with a range of privacy requirements that go beyond what are required of them under the Data Protection Act.

Those requirements, imposed as licensing conditions, mean energy suppliers must obtain consumers' consent to collect and use consumption data more at a level of granularity more detailed than daily reads or to use consumption data for marketing purposes.

The suppliers can, under the framework, access consumption data up a daily level detail but consumers must be given the opportunity to opt out of that data collection.

These privacy requirements will now be imposed on suppliers of remote access meters. The new licensing conditions will apply from 9 August 2015.

Energy suppliers must, however, be aware of their broader obligations to privacy under the Data Protection Act, Ofgem said.

"We are not convinced that suppliers should gather consumers’ personal data without consent ‘just in case’ it comes in handy at some point in time," Ofgem said. "The rules we have proposed would not prohibit a supplier from seeking consent to hold such data ‘just in case’. Suppliers should however keep in mind their broader obligations under the Data Protection Act, such as around data retention."

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