Privacy row over Government’s energy support scheme data sweep

Government to collect data from your smart meter: Fresh privacy row breaks out as energy companies share information on usage

A privacy row has broken out over the energy bills support package after it emerged data from household meters is being shared with the Government.

Ministers quietly announced in October it would begin collecting and processing personal information from people’s smart and traditional meters.

Experts say it sets a ‘dangerous precedent’ and will affect smart meter customers more because their devices contain more sensitive data.

Data sweep: Ministers quietly announced in October that the Government would begin collecting and processing personal information from people’s smart and traditional meters

When smart meters first arrived, some feared they would hold too much information on households as they track energy usage in real time. 

Experts warn this could leave homes vulnerable to burglars if they managed to hack the gadget and work out from readings when nobody was in.

But customers were assured the data could only be viewed by their supplier.

The introduction of the Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee means that information will now be shared with the Government.

The first scheme gives customers £66 a month in winter to help with bills, while the guarantee, brought in by former prime minister Liz Truss, caps average energy bills at £2,500. 

Ministers want to use meter data to help identify fraudsters, such as those who claim energy bills support on an unused second property, for example.

Shadow Energy Minister Alan Whitehead says: ‘This proposal is an outrageous piece of private data-plundering and goes against every assurance put in place concerning the privacy of data generated from smart meter use.

‘It needs to be stopped immediately. There are many other ways to check on possible fraud in obtaining Energy Price Guarantee refunds.’

Nick Hunn, founder of consultancy firm WiFore, adds: ‘Customers were promised their smart meter data would only ever be shared with their supplier. For the Government to go back on this without a consultation sets a dangerous precedent.’

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman says: ‘The Government will only retain data for as long as required to support the success of our energy bills support schemes, including minimising any risk of fraud.

‘Any data needed . . . will be processed fully in line with UK GDPR and the Data Access and Privacy Framework, which protects smart meter customers’ privacy.

‘Personal information such as names, addresses and bank details are never stored on a smart meter.’