Setting the right conditions for innovation

Published: 18 Feb 2019

By: Sarah Hayes

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Close up of chrome tap, water running

Whether it’s making the first cup of tea of the day, phoning friends and colleagues, watching our favourite TV programmes or brushing our teeth, the way we live our day-to-day lives depends heavily on our energy, telecoms and water industries.

The regulation of these essential services is therefore vital to ensuring that we get a fair deal, and that vulnerable customers are protected.  But these are also industries that could benefit from technological developments and innovations, which could cut their environmental impact and, ultimately, improve the services they offer.

But if the sectors are to make the most of these innovations, there needs to be a system of regulation that means companies can invest to take full advantage of them – all while keeping bills down.

That’s why I’m pleased to be leading work on the National Infrastructure Commission’s new regulation study.  Among other issues, we want to explore the future changes that may affect these regulated sectors, whether the current regulatory systems are encouraging sufficient competition and innovation, the level of consistency between different sectors and the way that regulators Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat engage with those in Government.  Full details of our terms of reference can be found here.

Today’s call for evidence covers these topics and more.  We want to hear from companies and consumers, regulators and investors, to gauge their views on how the existing system is working, and how it could be improved.  In particular, we want to know whether the current model of regulation is striking the right balance for companies to both be cutting edge and offer the customer service we rightly expect; whether the voice of consumers is being sufficiently represented and heard, and whether we can achieve ever-greater transparency and accountability in these markets.

Our purpose is not to try and fix things that aren’t broken.   The regulation study is aimed at making sure that the system of regulation we have in this country meets the future needs of customers and companies alike, enabling creativity and innovation to flourish while keeping an eye on bills and ensuring protection for vulnerable households.

The deadline for responses to our call for evidence is Friday 12 April – I look forward to seeing the responses we receive and continuing the conversation over the coming months.

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