A simple solution for EDF Energy’s marketing problem

EDFSo EDF Energy has told its customers it can only recommend lower cost gas and electricity tariffs on annual bills if they “opt in” to receive advertising material.

Reading the report in today’s Telegraph, I was pretty sure that EDF Energy’s intention surely couldn’t be a cop-out to telling customers about better energy deals. That is, to not tell them.

But the Telegraph goes on to say:

EDF last night said the Data Protection Act meant it was unable to pro-actively tell customers about cheaper deals. It said the clause was only supposed to effect customers coming to the end of fixed-price contracts.

And quoting a spokeswoman:

“If a customers has opted out of ‘marketing,’ Data Protection Act rules mean we cannot highlight the cheapest deals within the letter informing them of the closure.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me as though the Department of Common Sense at EDF Energy has closed down.

It seems to me that the Data Protection Act is also about consent: if you consent to a company doing certain things with your personal information, then isn’t that part of opting in?

Here’s a suggestion, EDF Energy.

How about a specific page on the EDF Energy website inviting customers to opt in to receiving information about cheaper deals? Or enabling customers to indicate that they’d like to receive information by email or in the post – or whatever needs to be said to comply with data protection and privacy laws – specifically about tariffs, prices and cheaper deals?

The invitation to opt in could say something like this:

[ ] Yes, I’d like to receive marketing emails or letters from you that will inform me of the choices I have in choosing an energy tariff at the best price. You promise that my opt-in to such communication will only be for this purpose: you will not spam me forever more with useless direct-marketing crap unrelated to choosing an energy tariff at the best price.

Okay, the final part of that last sentence probably wouldn’t make it. But I don’t see why EDF Energy can’t simply offer customers such an invitation to opt in to receiving “marketing” communication where it’s explained very clearly what it will include.

I bet they would get a huge take-up. You might even see some buzz building online showing EDF Energy in a good light about their common-sense approach to a thorny issue of rising energy prices and the negative opinions about energy companies that has got politicians all exercised and has even led to letters being written.

This isn’t a public issue: I’ve not seen any media reports about it other than in the Telegraph. A tweet or two here and there.

But such things have a habit of suddenly becoming a major issue and before you know it, you’re all over the media  – mainstream and social – for all the worst reasons. You might consider the Telegraph’s story as an early alert, an opportunity for EDF to address the matter before it evolves.

Proactive communication, EDF Energy, surely a simple solution that offers a big benefit. The customer relationship advantage could be significant.

Not to mention public relations.