New laws will give Aussies access to their bank, telco, energy data

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New laws will give Aussies access to their bank, telco, energy data

Legislation to be introduced in 2018.

The federal government has promised to introduce a national 'consumer data right' into law allowing consumers open access to their banking, energy, and telco data next year.

The consumer data right is intended to provide individuals information that will help them to compare offers, access cheaper products, and more easily switch to new services.

A person's usage and transaction data will need to be provided to them in a "useful digital format", and consumers will be able to ask their provider to transfer their data to a chosen third party.

It stems from a recommendation in the Productivity Commission's report into data availability and use, published in May this year.

The commission said consumers should have more control over how their personal data is collected and handled. It had pushed the government to implement all the 41 recommendations in its report within 18 months. The government is expected to respond to the inquiry before Christmas.

Assistant minister for digital transformation Angus Taylor today said legislation governing the new consumer data right would be "brought forward" in 2018.

While the consumer data right will eventually span all sectors, the government is taking an incremental approach and starting with banking, utilities, and telecommunications companies.

The federal government started working on opening up data access for banking customers earlier this year as part of the 'open banking' scheme revealed in the 2017 federal budget.

The scheme will force banks to share the data they hold on a customer when requested by that individual. The Treasury is currently undertaking a review into how the scheme will operate and is due to deliver its report before the end of the year.

For telcos, consumers will be able to request their usage data in order to ascertain their actual consumption levels and better identify the best plan for them.

Energy providers will similarly be required to provide "standard, comparable, easy-to-read digital information that third parties can readily access" under the new laws, Taylor said today.

Like banks, energy providers have already been in the government's sights for open data: they agreed in August to to send letters to customers before Christmas explaining how they could save money on their bills, following a request by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“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," Taylor said in a statement.

"It won’t be far down the track when you can simply tap your smartphone to switch from one bank to another, to a cheaper internet plan, or between energy companies. Government is lifting the lid on competition in consumer services and technology is the enabler."

The consumer data right scheme will be jointly regulated by the ACCC and OAIC.

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