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Data Errors: Sagacity warns up to 380,000 UK households could face bill shocks due to errors in collapsed energy firms’ records

Data expert estimates up to 10% of stranded customers will face problems when being reassigned a new supplier and urges consumers to get on the front foot to check their details to help minimise their risk

Sagacity, the data solutions expert, is warning that the financial cost and widespread disruption caused by the ongoing energy crisis is likely to be exacerbated by bad data. Twelve energy companies closed their doors in the last two months, with more to follow. 3.8 million households need to be reassigned new providers by Ofgem in the biggest overhaul of customer records in history. Sagacity estimates up to 10 percent of customer record transfers may suffer from data gaps, including wrongly recorded names, addresses, meter readings and tariff information. This could see bills fail to reach customers’ doors, leading to mounting debt, bill shock and impacted credit ratings. Based on an average household annual spend of £1042, this equates to £380m of potential revenue impact for already-struggling energy providers.

Sagacity is also raising concern that repayment plans which are in place for vulnerable customers may not be passed over to new providers correctly. While Ofgem has stated price caps and account credit will be protected under their ‘safety net’, we need to ensure repayment plans and social tariffs are upheld in the handover. Otherwise this would leave vulnerable customers struggling with bills at a time when the cost of living is rising, and Universal Credit has been cut.

“With millions of customers already displaced and potentially more to come, data migration will be a huge challenge for energy providers. Customer tariffs may be accidentally transferred to a default rate, debt repayment plans may be disrupted, and bills could go to the wrong addressees, leading to bill shock in a few months’ time – the potential issues are endless given the significant task in hand for energy providers,” comments Anita Dougall, Sagacity’s Founding Partner and CEO. “As a customer, one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk is to make sure your current provider has your most up to date information – in particular, your latest meter readings and contact information. Those who are willing to go one step further, noting down their previous tariff and proactively getting in touch with a new provider, can even further reduce the chances of any nasty surprises down the line.”

Many suppliers will be inheriting customer records that are inaccurate, incomplete, or stored differently and need to be handled with the right expertise. Something as simple as the previous provider organising their customers ‘last name – first name’, whilst the new provider does it ‘first name – last name’ has a significant knock-on effect to data in other departments, from billing to customer service. If data is held across multiple systems in differing formats, it is difficult to apply consistent processes making a seamless migration almost impossible. This is extremely damaging to the customer experience and leads to an increase in inbound customer calls, escalations, and slower meantime to resolution on important enquiries as it will be blocking up call centres. To avoid this situation occurring, data should be cleansed and validated for the new supplier to ensure a positive customer experience.

“Energy companies have a tough job on their hands to take on an extra 3.8 million customers and deal with the pressures this will put on their customer service teams. They need to invest in their data and not rush this process. Even if the data provided by the old supplier is good quality, it can still cause challenges if it’s in a different format to the new provider’s system. Just migrating old records simply won’t work, the data needs assessing and validating – quality matters” explains Dougall. “To deliver a smooth transition, companies need a clear data strategy from the start. They need to know exactly who they are supplying and what needs those customers have. This includes everything from filling the gaps in customer information, to identifying which customers should be on social tariffs and upholding repayment plans. It’s a big data challenge to solve but having better data from the outset will prevent longer-term damage, whether that’s to the supplier’s profit margin or its relationship with customers.” Good quality data will help customers and suppliers so let’s collaborate and help during these difficult times.”