ComCom wants NZ telco industry to create consumer data right

Competition watchdog wants consumers to be able to share usage and compare telco plans much more easily.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Commerce Commission New Zealand (ComCom) has called on the New Zealand telco industry to begin work on what could eventually become a consumer data right, allowing Kiwis to share usage and product data between telcos and with comparison services.

"Consumer data rights would be expected to have a similar effect to number portability in terms of 'unlocking' customer information and empowering consumer choice," the competition watchdog said in an open letter to NZ telcos.

"This is a potentially powerful tool for addressing transparency and inertia issues, and improving competitive outcomes for consumers."

At this stage, ComCom is happy to let the Telecommunications Forum industry body look into the design and implementation of the right.

See also: New Zealand's lessons from second lockdown after being 100 days COVID-free (TechRepublic)

The letter followed ComCom releasing a report [PDF] on Thursday that examined mobile billing data for 80,000 New Zealanders across a 12-month period to August 2019.

The report found 64% of those sampled did not switch mobile plans during the year, a touch over a quarter could have saved NZ$11.58 a month by moving to a cheaper mobile plan, and around 7% of consumers could have saved an average of NZ$48.65 each month.

"We want to see the industry catch up to other sectors, like electricity, where consumers and comparison websites are making good use of the ability to compare usage and pricing," telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said.

"We expect the operators to address these issues by increasing the usage information available to consumers and implementing measures to help keep consumers on plans that best reflect their actual requirements. This will improve transparency, empower consumers to make better choices, and guard against overspending."

Across the ditch: Australia's Consumer Data Right: Here's everything you need to know

Earlier in the year, Australia implemented its Consumer Data Right, which first applied to the banking sector, with the energy sector to be the next cab off the rank. It is expected it will eventually be applicable to the nation's telcos as well.

The Australian Energy Council and energy provider AGL said in January that lawmakers needed to be cognisant the energy sector is different to the finance sector when applying a consumer data right.

On Tuesday, ComCom released its first paper on fibre price and information disclosure regulation that will apply to Chorus, Enable Networks, Northpower, and UltraFast Fibre from January 2022.

"The purpose of this paper is to set out our early thinking on how we approach the major aspects the new regulations will cover. This includes the type of information providers should publicly disclose and how we would set the amount of revenue Chorus can recover and the quality standards it must meet," Gilbertson said.

Under the new regulation, all four fibre companies will be required to disclose their profit, revenue, and capital expenditure.

Towards the end of the year, ComCom will finalise its decisions in this area.

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