Telcos seek clarity about government’s new data access regime

Government push for Consumer Data Right praised by Choice

Telecommunications industry body Communications Alliance has asked the government to release details of its plan to legislate a ‘Consumer Data Right’.

Assistant minister for cities and digital transformation, Angus Taylor, revealed that the government would introduce legislation giving individual consumers the right to access data that service providers hold about them.

The government said that the Consumer Data Right will be established one sector at a time — beginning with the banking, energy and telco industries.

Businesses covered by the new regime will be “required to provide standard, comparable, easy-to-read digital information, that third parties can readily access,” the government said.

The move is in response to one of the key recommendations of a Productivity Commission inquiry into data access and usage.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said that industry should, subject to regulator approval, devise the data set covered by the new regime.

“There are many categories of data that simply are not relevant to the task of informing consumers about their usage of services and which would needlessly drive up the cost to service providers of complying with the proposed legislation,” Stanton said.

“It should also be recognised that the telco industry already gives consumers extensive access to billing information and has in place mechanisms — such as the world-leading mobile number portability process — to make it easy for customers to switch providers.

Communications Alliance warned of ‘compliance confusion’ because telcos’ range of existing disclosure obligations under legislation including the Telecommunications Act, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, the Privacy Act and a range of regulations

The government’s move drew praise from consumer group Choice.

“This major reform, which will be introduced in 2018, should make it easier for consumers to find the best price in the market based on what they really need,” Choice director of campaigns and communications, Erin Turner, said in a statement.

“Switching telecommunications, banking and energy providers is a confusing, time consuming, overly manual process, but it can provide you with real savings.

“Right now, companies make it incredibly difficult to put similar services side by side. It’s far too hard to find the best deal for you. This new right to data should make the switching process much easier and less painful.”

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