Regulation, customer protection and customer engagement
Abstract: The UK utility regulation framework developed in the 1980s was intended to improve on the restrictive, inefficient and burdensome regulatory approach in the US. But the UK regulatory process has itself now become increasingly burdensome. Meanwhile, utilities and customer groups in the US and Canada have developed methods of negotiating and settling regulatory issues that more directly reflect the interests of customers, often embody incentive price caps as in the UK, and avoid unduly burdensome regulatory processes. There is now scope for UK regulators to learn from overseas. This paper summarises these developments. It then examines how three UK utility regulators – the CAA, Ofgem and Ofwat – are responding to them. Briefly, the CAA has moved firmly in this direction, but Ofgem and Ofwat have nominally rejected it while seeking to secure many of the benefits of the approach via a less committed process. There is scope for governments to encourage a regulatory approach that offers the prospect of better outcomes for customers and a less onerous process for all concerned.
Keywords: Negotiated settlements, constructive engagement, regulation