With the Consumer Data Right (CDR) deadline of February 1 creeping up, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said all the systems that are required to be implemented by the consumer watchdog itself and industry are close to being ready.
ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said while the deadline is "extraordinarily tight", the ACCC, which has been charged with oversight, specifically responsible for rule-making, consumer education, and eventually the enforcement of the CDR, is in the final stages of finalising the build of a register, which will be a list of all the accredited and participating data receivers under the CDR.
"We're finishing that. The banks are finalising their builds, the data receivers are finalising their builds and getting ready for accreditation, and we have just commenced what's going to be an intense testing period to try and ensure we have connectivity, all the security standards, and architectures we need built into the system," she said.
The work comes off the back of the ACCC drafting up rules in March that stipulated how data requests would be made under CDR, which will be slowly rolled out in phases, starting with the financial services sector -- specifically the big four banks -- through an Open Banking regime.
"We're doing that because the big four banks hold 70-80% of retail banking accounts. Those big four banks will be obliged to share their customer data when directed to, when requested by their customers with accredited data recipients," Court said.
On a panel at the Future of Financial Services event in Sydney on Friday, Court also took the opportunity to emphasise how the ACCC has taken a consumer-centric approach to CDR and that the system would be voluntary for consumers to participate in.
"We have been very conscious in building this system, designing the rules and protection for consumers, to put consumers at the heart of this system," she said, assuring CDR is "not a wonderful opportunity for banks and fintechs to start forwarding consumer data around the ether".
"It's an opportunity for consumers to say very clearly in a way that they can't do now, we would say, 'this is what I want you to do with my data'," she added.
Joining Court on the panel, ING Digital and Innovation head Christopher Barwick said that even though his bank was "cautiously optimistic" about CDR, he believes it will deliver a "huge opportunity" for banks to cement the shift from being product focused to customer focused.
"It will force a lot of collaboration, it will force a lot of competition, and it's going to force innovation, and all of that will centre around the customer," he said.
While Judo Bank co-founder and co-CEO Joseph Healy agreed with Barwick, he raised concerns based off what has happened in the United Kingdom, where there was a "high level of inertia" and the challenge laid with customers in terms of its adoption.
"The readiness challenge is not much the financial institutions … the real readiness challenge is going to be the consumer and educating the consumer on what this really means, not just the positive aspect … but also the downside of sharing data," he said.
Healy said he's optimistic however, that the open banking regime would be successful when there are more players in the market.
"It will boost competition and choice in the economy and the real fruit of these initiatives will only start to bear when we see a whole range of suppliers come in the market giving consumers greater choices," he said.
"I personally hope a whole new number of credentials, properly regulated neobanks and fintechs coming into the market providing great choice for people. And open banking will certainly help."
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