Energy to join banking sector under Australia's Consumer Data Right

Touted as giving consumers more power to compare and switch providers to lower their energy bills by formally applying the Consumer Data Right regime to the energy sector.

The federal government has on Monday announced the next stage of the Consumer Data Right (CDR), bringing the energy sector into the regime touted as allowing individuals to "own" their data by granting them open access to their banking, energy, phone, and internet transactions, as well as the right to control who can have it and who can use it.

Banking is the first sector the CDR applies to, with banks officially forced to have product reference data available from Wednesday, following delays.

With the energy sector next on the government's hit list, it's saying the move will give consumers more power to compare and switch providers to lower their energy bills.

"Today the legislative instrument will take effect which will bring the energy sector into the CDR regime and will enable rules and technical standards to be made to govern how the right will operate in relation to energy data," a joint statement from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said.

"Applying the Consumer Data Right to the energy sector will allow consumers and businesses to more easily compare and switch between electricity plans and providers, encouraging more competition, lower prices and more innovative products and services."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will shortly commence consultations on the proposed rules for the energy sector.

When the ACCC published the draft CDR rules in March last year, they weren't received with enthusiasm.

The Australian Privacy Foundation at the time said the CDR privacy safeguards were not sufficient, and that the government has "severely" underestimated the need for more thought across the entire legislative change.

There were also concerns that the Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill 2019 [Provisions] and the accompanying CDR rules would have a distinct banking focus that would make them less applicable to the energy and telecommunications space.

The Australian Energy Council and energy provider AGL in January asked the Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology to be cognisant the energy sector is different to the finance sector in its investigation of the CDR.

On expanding the CDR to cover other areas of finance not mandated in the first instance, the Energy Council emphasised its view that any expansion of the CDR to other related financial sectors, such as superannuation, should be gradual to "avoid rushing the phased implementation of CDR into energy and telecommunications".

"This phased approach is in place to provide regulators and industry with certainty going forward and to allocate resources accordingly," it said. "A rushed process will only lead to sub-optimal results for customers."

The ACCC announced in February last year that energy would join banking under the CDR.

"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 said in a consultation paper at the time.

"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."

The ACCC originally wanted the first batch of energy data to be open during the first half of 2020.

While the initial data sets for the CDR in energy have not yet been determined, the ACCC said previously it will likely be priority data sets in the National Electricity Market (NEM) -- a function operated by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

Types of data that may be subject to the initial CDR, the ACCC has said, include NMI Standing data -- connection point information; customer provided data, such as the name of account holder and contact details including addresses; and metering data, which is data collected by metering data providers.

Further data may include billing data, including historical billing information for each connection point; generic product data, such as retail tariffs, usage charges, and applicable discounts for the supply of electricity to consumers; and "individually tailored" product data, such as retail tariffs, usage charges, and discounts.

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