Legislative Council: Thursday, October 20, 2022


National Electricity Law (South Australia) (Consumer Data Right) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 28 September 2022.)

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (16:24): I indicate that I will be the lead speaker for the opposition in the upper house and that we will be supporting the bill. I also indicate that I will have some questions during the committee stage. We have seen with the use of open data for banking systems that it has created some competition, some ease of access to comparable quotes for services and a swathe of new entrants into the tired, stuffy legacy world of banking.

Neobanks, 'buy now pay later' and countless apps and companies that can aggregate your money accounts across different banks, lending institutions and credit reporting agencies now allow people to have a bird's eye view of their banking. It became simpler to change banks, porting all account details and debits to new banks, a task that many Australians used to put into the too-hard basket.

Now open data has come to utilities companies. This improvement was a long time coming. Energy companies were announced in 2018 as being the next iteration of open data regime. As South Australia is the lead legislator for the national energy laws, we now see these changes coming to parliament to improve consumer data rights. Whilst these amendments were made federally, changes are still required to the national energy law and also to the national energy rules to reflect these amendments as well.

Energy ministers have agreed on these amendments to the framework. As I said, South Australia is the lead legislator, and this is why we find ourselves here today. The intention of the consumer data rights is to empower customers to use their own data to make comparisons across different providers. They can port their usage over the last year and compare what they would have been charged at different providers, making it a very personal assessment. A consumer data right for energy includes data such as generic and tailored tariff data; Distributed Energy Resource Register data, including details of batteries and solar panel installations; billing data, customer-provided data and metering data.

Over time, the consumer data right will encourage greater competition between energy retailers and deliver innovative retail products, some of which probably have not even been contemplated yet. In 2021, a peer-to-peer model was developed, where a consumer can direct a data holder to provide their consumer data right to an accredited data recipient in a compliant format. When an accredited data recipient receives a consumer data right for energy data, they will use this for the purposes that the consumer has requested, including tariff compensation, energy efficiency audits and sizing of PV cells and battery storage requirements.

This legislation expands significantly on the Australian Energy Market Operator's (AEMO) role in data provision. The amendments add consumer data right functions into AEMO's statutory functions under the new National Electricity Laws. These changes will allow AEMO to recover costs of performing these functions through participant fees, as part of its normal cost-recovery functions.

The National Electricity Law (South Australia) (Consumer Data Right) Amendment Bill 2022 seeks to implement these amendments for making changes to the electricity laws to add consumer data rights to the Australian Energy Market Operator and to allow South Australian energy ministers, using their ministerial-initiated rule powers, to make the initial amendments to the National Electricity Rules, as is common practice, and this will also ensure consistency between Consumer Data Right Rules and National Electricity Rules, removing many barriers that are currently in place.

For any future rules, AEMO, as the rule maker under the national electricity energy laws, has the power to amend the National Electricity Rules for any future requirements. As I said from the outset, the opposition supports these changes as practical measures to increase competition in the energy market and lead to a reduction in household bills, at this current time something that is very much appreciated by South Australian residents during this cost-of-living crisis. I support this bill.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:29): I also rise in support of the bill on behalf of the Greens. Giving consumers better information regarding their electricity is a key element of the transition towards renewable energy in this state. This bill allows customers the right to transfer their data to compare and switch between products and services. Consumers will need to consent and provide authorisation before their data is shared. This measure is already available in the banking and finance sectors, and by allowing it in the energy sector we can create better options for electricity consumers.

The Productivity Commission, in its 2017 report into data availability and use, found that Australian consumers have little capacity to choose how digital data regarding them is used. The report recommended that consumers be given the right to use their digital data. According to the report, consumer data rights will result in increased market competition, wider service choices and innovation in services.

In 2019, a report by Deloitte investigated consumer data rights in the banking sector. In this survey, they found that trust is key to determining whether or not consumers are likely to share their data. In light of the recent Optus data breach, many consumers will be concerned about the security of their data when it comes to transferring this information. For this reason, the need for security is paramount, but we are satisfied that no data can be shared without the consent of the consumer with respect to this bill.

As we transition away from fossil fuels, giving consumers the right to their data will allow people to have greater choice about where their electricity comes from. The increase in innovation of services that has been forecast is welcome. If electricity providers are forced to transform services to suit customer need, we might see more green options in the energy market, and of course we in the Greens would welcome that.

Nearly 70 per cent of South Australians want full renewable energy by 2030, according to the Australia Institute. While we transition at a state level, we can also give consumers a greater right to their data to allow them to vote with their feet and choose providers that are offering services that are better for our planet. With that, I conclude my remarks.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (16:31): I would like to thank the Hon. Heidi Girolamo and the Hon. Robert Simms for their contributions on this bill, and I also thank them for their indicated support on behalf of the relevant parties. I commend the bill. I look forward to the benefits to consumers coming from this coming to fruition.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: What is an example of an accredited data recipient by the ACCC?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that an accredited data recipient is someone who has been assessed by the ACCC as a suitable person to be designated as such. It could be a third party who provides tariff comparisons, as one of the examples of what an accredited data recipient might be.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: What is the process to become accredited?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that someone who wishes to be an accredited data recipient would apply to the ACCC, and to become accredited they would need to:

demonstrate that they are a fit and proper person or organisation to manage consumer data or write data;

have taken steps to adequately protect data from misuse, interference, loss, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure;

have internal dispute resolution processes meeting the requirements of the CDR rules;

belong to a relevant external dispute resolution scheme;

have adequate insurance to compensate the CDR consumers for any loss that might occur from a breach of the accredited data recipient's obligations; and

have an Australian address for service.

Clause passed.

Clauses 2 to 4 passed.

Clause 5.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: What is the process for someone to remove their data from the accredited data holder after the consumer feels that their data is no longer required by that particular company anymore?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the person would simply need to contact the accredited data holder, and that there is no specific required format for that request.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: What protection do consumers have that they will not be spammed with information once they have shared their contact details and data with the company, for the express purpose of comparing plans?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that there is an obligation on the data holder to use it only for the purposes for which it was provided. In the event that they were to use it for other purposes that could result in the removal of their accreditation by the ACCC.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: Will access expire by the company or is there a set period of time in which that information or that access to that information will be removed, or will it be held indefinitely?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the information is not held in perpetuity; there is an expiry. We can take on notice and seek advice—it will be from the commonwealth colleagues—as to what that expiry period is.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (6 and 7) and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (16:39): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.