The Communications Alliance is calling on the Federal Government to clarify its intentions around its proposal to legislate a national Consumer Data Right, effectively giving Australians open access to data about their phone, internet, banking and energy transactions.
The proposal was revealed by Australia’s Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor, on 26 November.
“Government is pursuing the very simple idea that the customer should own their own data. It is a powerful idea and a very important one,” Taylor said in a statement.
“Australians have been missing out because it’s too hard to switch to something better. You may be able to access your recent banking transactions, or compare this quarter’s energy bill to the last, but it sure isn’t quick or easy to work out if you can get a better deal elsewhere,” he said.
According to Taylor, the proposed Consumer Data Right giving consumers the right to request key data in a digital format to be made available to them or to a third party of their choice was one of 41 recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s Data Availability and Use Inquiry, tabled in parliament in May this year.
It is understood the Government plans to legislate in 2018.
The objective of the legislation would be to help facilitate the decision-making processes of consumers switching between providers of key services such as banking, energy and telecommunications.
Now, the Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, has said the Government should confirm that industry will be given the responsibility to define the data set that will be made available to consumers, subject to regulator approval.
“There are many categories of data that simply are not relevant to the task of informing consumers about their usage of services and which would needlessly drive up the cost to service providers of complying with the proposed legislation,” Stanton said.
“It should also be recognised that the telco industry already gives consumers extensive access to billing information and has in place mechanisms – such as the world-leading Mobile Number Portability process – to make it easy for customers to switch providers,” he said.
The telco industry peak body has suggested that, if the proposed open data regime is not managed correctly, it could create “compliance jeopardy” and potential confusion, given that disclosures by service providers are already regulated by the Telecommunications Act, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, the Privacy Act and multiple industry regulators.
“Industry supports the top-line objective of the PC recommendations, but we need clarity from Government if we are to be able to help avoid the legislation becoming a costly exercise in unintended consequences,” Stanton said.