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Illegal Data Access by KEPCO Tops 40,000 Cases

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The headquarters of The Kansai Electric Power Co. are seen in Osaka in April 2021.

Kansai Electric Power Co. was involved in 40,806 cases of unauthorized access to household customer data held by its rivals from April to mid-December last year, the company said Monday.

This is a significant increase from the 14,657 cases that the company announced on Jan. 13 after conducting a probe for a three-month period through last December. The Electricity and Gas Market Surveillance Commission of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry intends to ascertain the situation and demand improvements based on its own investigation of the major power company.

According to KEPCO, the number of its employees and others who have illegally viewed the customer information also increased to 1,013, up from the previously announced 730. The company is currently looking into records for the past three years, the period for which data is available, and cases of unauthorized access are highly likely to increase.

Since the full liberalization of electric power retailing in 2016, so-called power producers and suppliers (PPS) have newly entered the sector one after another. Meanwhile, subsidiaries of major utility companies have continued to handle the transmission and distribution of electricity, a segment that is of high public interest.

However, the Electricity Business Law prohibits these subsidiaries from sharing customer information held by PPS with their parent companies, in a bid to maintain fair competition.

However, a defect in the data-sharing system allowed KEPCO employees, including people in the sales division, to view customer data held by its subsidiary, Kansai Transmission and Distribution, Inc., according to a report released by KEPCO on Jan. 13.

Among about 15,000 cases of unauthorized access that have come to light since last autumn, information from 842 cases was used for KEPCO’s marketing activities. Users switched their contracts to KEPCO from rival companies in 12 cases.