GDPR – what is it and do we need to be concerned about it?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been inundated with emails over the last few weeks with privacy policy updates from what seems like every site you’ve ever visited. Of course, this isn’t a random occurrence – it is related to the GDPR becoming effective last week.

I recently received an email from a newsletter subscriber asking if I had any information about the GDPR and compliance by local governments. This newsletter is a more in-depth response to what I replied to her.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney and the information here is not intended to serve as legal advice. If you have legal questions concerning compliance with the GDPR, please consult with your attorney. This also is targeted at utilities outside the European Union, specifically in the United States. If your utility is located within the European Union, this may not apply.

What is the GDPR?

GDPR is an acronym for General Data Protection Regulation. The GDPR was passed by the European Union (EU) on April 14, 2016 with an implementation date of May 25, 2018, after which organizations found to be out of compliance can be fined.

The GDPR deals with safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) and applies to organizations inside and outside the EU. According to the official GDPR website, it applies to “a company established outside the EU offering goods/services (paid or for free) or monitoring the behaviour of individuals in the EU.”

Do we need to worry about the GDPR?

The above cited website goes on to explain that the GDPR does not apply if “your company doesn’t specifically target its services at individuals in the EU, it is not subject to the rules of the GDPR.” Clearly, utilities target their services at customers who live or own property within their service area, not based on where the customer resides.

This article from Government Technology clarifies the issue even better, explaining that, even if your utility has customers who reside in the EU, information you collect for online bill pay or applying for service, for example. would not be subject to the GDPR.

Still responsible for PII of your customers

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have no responsibility for safeguarding personal information of your customers, only that, if my interpretation is correct, you aren’t subject to fines for violating the GDPR.

If you aren’t sure if you are adequately safeguarding your customer’s personal data, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at to learn how a business review could help you determine this.

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© 2018 Gary Sanders

2018 Utility Staffing Survey Results – Part II

This is the second of two consecutive Utility Information Pipelines reporting the results of the 2018 Utility Staffing Survey. 82 utilities, representing 20 states, ranging in size from 134 to 90,000 active accounts participated in the survey.

Last week’s issue summarized the demographics of the survey respondents as well as staffing levels and factors outside the control of the utilities. Today’s issue deals with practices each utility can control, such as payment processing and bill printing.

In addition to asking the number of office employees, how many active customers, what services each utility bills, and annual customer turnover, the survey also asked how each utility handles various labor intensive processes.

Meter Reading Processing

In terms of office staffing, the real distinction in time savings in only between manually entering readings or importing them from some sort of automated reading process. However, unlike two years ago, this year’s survey did distinguish between whether the imported readings were from handhelds or an AMR or AMI system.

As expected, most utilities in the survey have automated their meter reading process. However, this year’s survey included 16 utilities that still enter meter readings, up from only five two years ago. Surprisingly, three of these utilities were in the upper 50% of most efficiently staffed offices. The others were all within the bottom third of least efficiently staffed offices, as represented by the graph below (clicking on any of the graphs will open a larger image in a new window).

Bill Printing

Bill printing and the related tasks required for preparing bills for mailing – separating postcards or folding and inserting full page bills, sorting, and traying the mail – are very labor intensive tasks.

Not surprisingly, the top three and 28 of the top 32 most efficiently staffed offices use an outsource printer to print their bills. On the other hand, only four of the 15 least efficiently staffed offices outsource their billing printing.

Mail Payment Processing

Mail payment processing is quite possibly the most labor intensive process in most utility offices. For that reason, many utilities have sought to automate the processing of mail payments, either by scanning barcodes on the bill, or using a remittance processing system or a bank lockbox.

As anticipated, 14 of the 15 most efficient utilities automate the mail payment process in some way, while 16 of the 21 least efficient utilities manually enter mail payments.

Phone Credit Card Payments

The final area the survey asked about is phone credit card payments. This can be an extremely laborious process considering the customer service representative must look up the account, tell the customer how much is owed, take the credit card number and process the payment authorization and, finally, enter the payment in the system.

Somewhat surprisingly, 5 of the 19 most efficiently staffed offices have a person in the office take phone credit card payments.

Is your office adequately staffed?

If you think your utility is understaffed or could operate more efficiently, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at to learn how a business review could help you determine this.

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© 2018 Gary Sanders