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Australia to legislate to open up access to consumer data across sectors

Consumers in Australia will be able to share data held by their bank, energy company or telecoms provider with other businesses more easily under new laws to be introduced in the country.30 Nov 2017

The Australian government announced earlier this week that it would legislate for a new 'consumer data right' in what assistant minister for cities and digital transformation Angus Taylor labelled as "the biggest reform to consumer law in a generation".

Taylor said: "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."

"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. 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," he said.

The government said that the new consumer data right would be established on a "sector-by-sector" basis, starting with banking, energy and telecoms sectors. It will build on existing initiatives to open up data held by retail providers of electricity and the open banking scheme, it said.

Draft legislation to take forward the plans, which will implement a recommendation that was made by the Productivity Commission at the end of its data availability and use inquiry earlier this year, will be set out in 2018, the government said. It said it would respond formally to the Productivity Commission's inquiry "in coming weeks".

Australia's open banking regime will require banks in the country to open up access to customer and small business data by July 2018. It is being driven by a desire to encourage innovation and new third party services in the market.

Open banking is also being mandated in the UK, while the EU's revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) will also introduce new rights of access for third party fintechs to payment accounts data held by banks and other payment service providers.