When regulating monopoly network companies, either by market sector or area, the Utility Regulator seeks to protect consumers by taking decisions on prices, investment priorities and targeted outcomes our service providers are expected to deliver. Consumer engagement is the means we ensure our decisions are relevant to consumers’ needs, in the absence of competitive market conditions. A partnership approach to consumer engagement has served the Utility Regulator well in recent major price controls, ensuring limited specialist skills are pooled across our regulated companies, the consumer representative (CCNI), parent department (DfI for NI Water and DfE for the energy network companies) and ourselves.
Our most recent price control of local GDNs who have distinct geographical monopolies included the setting up of a new Consumer Engagement Advisory Group (CEAG) which includes representation of all three local GDNs as well as ourself with CCNI and the DfE.
Our final determination envisages the pooled expertise available from across the CEAG membership will ensure we develop (i) new consumer measures, including customer satisfaction surveys which will enable both comparison across local GDNs as well as comparison to NI Water (ii) a continuous engagement model across the GDNs which avoids triplication of consumer engagement efforts as well as (iii) the knowledge base with which to ensure CEAG conduct deep consumer research in time for the next GDN price control that delivers ‘actionable data’ to inform future decisions.