Making data work for consumers

By Jon Vanstone, Certass.

In this year of considerable regulatory change, the government has committed to implementing Dame Judith Hackitt’s Golden Thread recommendations aspart of the building safety system reforms.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Dame Judith said that a golden thread of good quality information will enable future building owners to better manage their buildings safely.

The golden thread is key fire and structural safety information about the building that must be stored digitally according to specific digital standards.

While it was aimed at high-rise buildings, the height of the buildings within scope is likely to reduce to 11m and will be expanded to include specialist buildings of any height such as schools and hospitals.

The problem is the golden thread is aimed purely at duty holders managing the building and is focused on safety, at a time when the focus for consumers not living in high rise buildings is more targeted at energy.

Therefore, there is interest in the January launch of the ECO Data Warehouse by TrustMark, which is paving the way for new initiatives for consumers in 2020. On top of this data store, and with the full support of government, a Property Hub is being developed, which will be seen in Q2 this year.

Consumers will be given free access to their data surrounding work undertaken in their home that was funded under the Energy Company Obligation. This information will be available 24/7 and is evidence of what has occurred within a property making acquisition of green mortgages and related finances much easier.

The systems seen in other markets will be under pressure to catch up; when installers have already paid for a job to be registered why should the consumer be paying again to access their own information?

Fensa is now charging consumers £25 for a reprint certificate, something the installer has already paid to notify, at a profit margin of around 98%. Surely it should be available 24/7 online for free by a business purporting to be digitally enabled and on the side of the consumer.

No wonder our industry is often seen by consumers as money grabbing and opportunistic; when you are selling your house, and in a high stress process, you are asked to pay yet another debatable charge, and not by local government.

The consumer groups will be hoping that bodies such as TrustMark, who evidently do believe in protecting the consumer’s interests, will be given access to the data by government so they can enable easy online access. I may not be a GDPR expert, but I do believe that there is a strong argument that data stored about a consumer should be given in the format in which it is stored for free.

However, if such lucrative solutions exist maybe the registered installers, whose ownership of the data could be reasonably argued, should just be asking for their share of the wealth?