Australia’s Consumer Data Right (CDR), the country’s high-profile legislation to give citizens greater control over their consumer data, has expanded from the banking sector into the energy sector.
The CDR legislation went live more than two years ago, with the country’s four major banks mandated to share access to consumer data for a range of personal accounts (with the customer’s permission) – the launch of open banking in Australia. Smaller banks came under CDR one year later. Expansion of the scheme to energy, which went live over the weekend (from 1 October), is the CDR’s first move beyond financial services.
The CDR initiative and its expansion are being watched by many governments and open banking experts worldwide as it is an example of how the data-sharing principles that underpin open banking can be rolled out to further sectors.
Bringing energy into the orbit of CDR aims to help consumers to get a better deal products and services by increasing the level of control that they have over their data. Consumers need to give consent for their energy data to be shared and only accredited parties will be able to receive data.
The rollout into the sector will proceed in stages, as it has done in banking. After energy the telecoms sector is next in line. The intention to include the energy sector in the CDR framework was announced in May 2018.
CDR staged rollout into energy
Initially the CDR for energy applies only to the National Electricity Market, which interconnects the six eastern and southern states and territories, delivering about 80 per cent of the country’s electricity consumption. Western Australia and the Northern Territory have separate electricity systems and regulatory arrangements.
Product reference data will be shared to facilitate better comparisons of energy plans. Information being supplied includes electricity, gas and ‘dual fuel’ plans offered by retailers in the National Electricity Market, as well as details about price, terms and conditions, availability, performance of plans and eligibility criteria.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and Victoria State Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have joined the CDR as energy sector data holders.
Consumer data-sharing by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), as well as retailers AGL Energy Group, Origin Energy Group and Energy Australia Group – including consumer billing and consumption data – gets underway from 15 November.
Implementation of the CDR is a multi-department effort across the Treasury, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The Treasury has overall responsibility and ACCC leads on accreditation and enforcement. The Treasury, ACCC and Australia’s Data Standards Body (DSB) have been operating a temporary monthly forum to engage with data-holders and government agencies on issues related to CDR’s implementation in energy. The Energy Implementation Advisory Committee supplements a CDR Implementation Advisory Committee that covers issues across all sectors.
CDR consultations ongoing
Expansion of CDR into energy comes just over a fortnight after the Treasury launched a consultation (on 15 September) as it looks to ensure that CDR rules ‘remain fit‑for‑purpose and support the policy aims of CDR’, which is ‘anticipated to expand and evolve over the next decade’.
Treasury is looking for comment on what it describes as ‘possible enhancements’ to the CDR rules, with a deadline for responses of 31 December. The department adds that there will then be ‘ongoing consultation in relation to the CDR rules, and a further consultation period will open in early 2023.’
The Treasury also launched a one-month consultation on 26 September seeking comments on exposure draft legislation to enable ‘action initiation’ in the CDR, which would ‘create a new channel for consumers to instruct a business to initiate actions on their behalf and with their consent’. Actions could include making a payment, opening and closing an account, switching providers and updating personal details (such as address) across providers.
On 15 September the Treasury also released exposure draft amendments to the CDR rules and explanatory materials for a one-month consultation. These expand the CDR to the telecoms sector and ‘make a range of additional operational enhancements, such as supporting participation by business consumers’.
‘Expanding the CDR to telecommunications is expected to drive more competition and allow consumers to better leverage their internet and mobile data when choosing products and bundle solutions that suit their needs,’ the Treasury stated on 15 September. ‘The combination of banking, energy and telecommunications data in the CDR will also generate cross‑sectoral use cases and enable development of new products and services.’
CDR review’s 16 recommendations
An independent ‘Statutory Review of the Consumer Data Right’ report containing 16 recommendations and 15 findings was released by assistant treasurer and minister for financial services Stephen Jones MP last week (29 September).
Authored by Elizabeth Kelly PSM, a former long-standing senior public servant, the 96-page report states that the CDR is at a ‘critical point in its implementation’ as Australia’s national data portability scheme. It states that the CDR’s statutory framework has ‘so far been broadly effective’ in supporting the CDR’s rollout, is ‘sufficiently flexible and robust’ to accommodate further changes to achieve policy objectives, and has ‘scope to further explore its limits as the CDR develops’.
Among the recommendations are that the government ‘should consider undertaking a whole-of-ecosystem cyber security assessment to ensure that the CDR cyber security architecture continues to be fit for purpose’; that government ‘should consider ways to increase small business participation in the CDR’; and that ‘facilitating government participation in the CDR should be a priority to ensure consumers benefit from more seamless government interactions and an ability to share their data across a greater range of services’.
The report also states that ‘the current pace of CDR rollout into new sectors has not allowed enough time for the system to mature and capitalise on the lessons learnt.’
‘Focusing on improving CDR functionality and data quality within already designated sectors should be prioritised, balanced with overall forward momentum into new sectors over time,’ the report states.
Global Government Fintech’s open banking / open finance topic section
‘Major review of Australia’s government service platform launched’ – a news story (25 September 2022) from our sister title Global Government Forum on the appointment of David Thodey, the Australian businessman who spearheaded an influential review of the Australian Public Service (APS), to lead an audit of the government’s myGov site
‘Australia’s Consumer Data Right sandbox goes live’ – our news story (29 July 2022) on the launch of a CDR sandbox by the ACCC
‘Australian government consults on first phase of open finance’ – our news story (21 March 2022) about a consultation on expanding the CDR to non-bank lending
‘Open to possibilities: governments bank on opening up financial services data’ – our report on a Global Government Fintech ‘Open Banking and Open Finance: What Role – And Benefits – For Governments?’ webinar, which was held on 15 March 2022 (panellists included the Australian Treasury’s Jessica Robinson)
‘Australia’s open banking regime enters next phase’ – our news story (14 July 2021) on new CDR legislation coming into effect extending the number of banks expected to share consumer data
‘Open banking gets off to slow start in Australia’ – our news story (9 July 2020) on open banking becoming a reality after the CDR legislation went live