Federal government backs open data scheme

25 November 2015 | The Competition Policy Review recommendation could mean better ways to choose service providers.

Better product comparisons, VPN support and more

The federal government has supported a key recommendation in the Competition Policy Review, which could help consumers make more informed choices in increasingly complex markets such as energy, banking and telecommunications.  

In its response to the Review, the government tasked the Productivity Commission with reviewing options for increasing consumers' access to their own data.

"This could provide real, tangible benefits for consumers seeking to navigate complex markets – helping consumers compare which products and services are best for them based on their personal usage habits," says CHOICE head of media, Tom Godfrey.

Allowing consumers access to data on their own personal usage would enable the development of tools to help consumers understand their habits and make way for more personalised product comparisons.

Midata scheme in UK

In the UK, consumers have already been granted access to their personal data through the Midata scheme. Earlier this year, gocompare.com became the first bank account comparison site in the UK to help customers to find out if they should switch to a better account for them based on their personal banking history.

It can be incredibly complex for consumers to compare services on a like-for-like basis, and the best service may vary depending on your personal usage. Take, for example, credit cards that offer rewards points. A card that appears to have a strong travel reward system might actually cost a consumer more in annual fees than it generates in benefits if that consumer is a low monthly spender ($1000 or less).

Under an open data scheme, a trusted third party (which has access to data which demonstrates how a consumer spends money, how much they are spending, and the time periods in which they repay debts) could provide more meaningful comparisons about the range of products on offer that would best suit the individual.

Support for VPNs

The government has also endorsed consumers' rights to circumvent geo-blocking in order to access goods and services from overseas at fair prices in its response to the Review.

This means that where Australians are blocked from overseas sites or charged a higher price, they should be able to use services like VPNs to get around these blocks.

But it's not all good news

Of the 56 recommendations put forward in the Harper Review, the government has supported 39. 

Of the 17 recommendations that were not supported, there were some disappointing exceptions, with consultation around trade agreements and wider parallel import reform being rejected.

Further reading

Would you use a personalised product comparison tool? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.