AU energy consumer data to be opened by 2020

Published on the 08/03/2019 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Consumer Data Right project_energy

ACCC turns its focus to the energy industry…

The Federal Government says its Consumer Data Right project – competition and consumer reform aimed at cracking open siloed company data in key industries across Australia – will commence in the energy sector in the first half of 2020.

Announced in May last year, the consumer data right will “improve consumers’ ability to compare and switch between products and services,” says the ACCC. “It will also encourage competition between service providers, leading not only to better prices for customers but also more innovative products and services.

“Improving access to their energy data will help consumers find cheaper services and will promote transparency and innovation.”

“The government [has] determined that the consumer data right will first apply to the banking sector, followed by the energy sector. Telecommunications is proposed to follow.”

To that end the ACCC is currently seeking feedback on proposed models for consumers to access their data in the energy market. The associated consultation paper sets out three potential data-transfer scenarios: One with the Australian Energy Market Operator as the ‘sole data holder of a centralised data set’, another that sees that same organisation acting as a conduit or ‘gateway’ through which data flows to consumers and accredited recipients, and a third which proposes data holders supply data directly to the same.

It’s a big job, and the paper says that while there is much crossover between data right legislation across sectors, each sector is a different beast with a range of sector-specific considerations. “In energy, one relevant consideration is that energy data on an individual consumer may be held by a number of organisations and it may not be possible for a single entity to provide sufficient data alone.

“It may therefore be appropriate to impose obligations under the CDR on more than one entity and unlike in the banking sector, the market operator also holds some customer data.”

And impose, they intend to. The ACCC has been assigned as central rule-maker, consumer educator and enforcer.

“We’re looking forward to progressing the next phase of the Consumer Data Right, as it has the potential to greatly assist consumers who we know struggle to find the best offers in the energy market,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court says.

“Improving access to their energy data will help consumers find cheaper services and will promote transparency and innovation.”

“Deciding on the appropriate data access model in energy is the first step in offering certainty to energy sector participants as they continue plan for the start of the CDR regime and develop new and innovative products that rely on reliable and secure sources of consumer data,” Court says.

In regards to the banking sector, the new CDR rules were set to go live in June, however those plans were scuttled late last year, and now June will see the big four banks – the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the National Australia Bank, ANZ and Westpac (collective holders of about 95 percent market share of the entire Australian finance industry) – participate instead in a beta test ‘pilot program’.

“From 1 July 2019, the ACCC and Data 61 will launch a pilot program with the big four to test the performance, reliability and security of the Open Banking system,” ran the PR spin, released last year.

“Consumers and fintechs will be invited to participate in these pilots and the ACCC and Data61 will also work closely with other banks who have expressed an interest in participating in Open Banking earlier than originally envisaged.”

As per the original timeline, product and consumer data for mortgage accounts will be made available on 1 February 2020.

Submissions on the data access models for energy data close 22 March 2019.

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