Beef needs to address data rights legal uncertainty

Beef needs to address data rights legal uncertainty


Sales
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Mecardo, AuctionsPlus in stoush over online cattle sale data.

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Mecardo's first, and only, analysis of online cattle sales versus the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, published in August and then removed from its website.

Mecardo's first, and only, analysis of online cattle sales versus the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, published in August and then removed from its website.

AUSTRALIA’S beef industry has been urged to straighten out legal uncertainty surrounding data rights.

In the wake of legislation announced this week to give consumers rights to their banking, energy, phone and internet transactions, cattle sale information and how it is used is again firmly in the spotlight.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says red meat industry leaders need to start formulating a plan on how they are going to apply societal and government appetite for open access to data to their business.

Right now, the questions of who owns the data, and how it can be utilised, is extremely open-ended and that is causing plenty of frustration.

The launch, and subsequent demise, of an Online Young Cattle Indicator (OYCI) by prominent livestock marketing analysts Mecardo has brought the topic to a boil.

The aim was to keep Mecardo’s premium subscribers updated on the fluctuations of the OYCI and its performance against the traditional cattle sale benchmark, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator.

Leading online auction platform for agricultural and livestock sales AuctionsPlus, whose data the Mecardo analysis would have largely been based on, instigated legal proceedings and Mecardo opted to remove from its website all reference to the tool.

Many producers, keen to access analysis on online sale trends, have expressed the opinion Mecardo should have held its ground.

Industry players made the point the tool was akin to indices like the All Ordinaries - “imagine if the ASX didn’t allow the use of information on price and volume on its website for analysis.”

Other beef industry stakeholders, including livestock agents, said the fact the provision of data comes with a cost has to be taken into account.

All agree it’s a grey area that needs some perimeters set and it’s “high time the conversation took place.”

The OYCI situation was complicated by the fact big agribusiness outfit Ruralco has an ownership stake in both Mecardo and AuctionsPlus.

The big picture, however, is the debate has raised pertinent questions: Is the data owned by the company that posts it online, is it owned by the respective buyers and sellers or is it general industry data?

AuctionsPlus chief executive officer Anna Speer is an advocate for the sharing of data and transparency.

She said AuctionsPlus published the results of price, passed-in and full lot details after each sale and that information was open to all industry.

Her issue is with the use of that information for commercial gain without authorisation.

Like most websites, AuctionsPlus also prohibits the “scraping” of data from their website.

“We currently share data with many key industry stakeholders on a regular basis,” she said.

“Meat and Livestock Australia publish weekly market reports on AuctionsPlus sales and we have been working with universities and PhD students to look at how we can provide valuable insights back to our customers via their dashboards.

“We would love to see an OYCI delivered to industry by an independent party.”

Ms Speer said while AuctionsPlus was not planning to launch a similar tool itself, it was currently in commercial discussions with various parties to determine the best way to get this information freely to industry, freely being the operative word.

Consumer Data Right

THE Turnbull Government will legislate a national Consumer Data Right, allowing customers open access to their banking, energy, phone and internet transactions.

Australians will be able to compare offers, get access to cheaper products and plans to help them ‘make the switch’ and get greater value for money.

In a press release issued this week, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said it was the biggest reform to consumer law in a generation.

“Government is pursuing the very simple idea that the customer should own their own data. It is a powerful idea and a very important one,” Assistant Minister Taylor said.

“Australians have been missing out because it’s too hard to switch to something better. You may be able to access your recent banking transactions, or compare this quarter’s energy bill to the last, but it sure isn’t quick or easy to work out if you can get a better deal elsewhere.”

The Consumer Data Right was one of 41 recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s Data Availability and Use Inquiry, tabled in parliament in May this year. The Government’s formal response to the inquiry will be published in coming weeks.

“It won’t be far down the track when you can simply tap your smartphone to switch from one bank to another, to a cheaper internet plan, or between energy companies. Government is lifting the lid on competition in consumer services and technology is the enabler,” Assistant Minister Taylor said.

Following on from the Prime Minister’s recent agreement with electricity retailers, and the Treasurer’s open banking initiative, the Consumer Data Right will be established sector-by-sector, beginning in the banking, energy and telecommunications sectors.

Utilities will be required to provide standard, comparable, easy-to-read digital information, that third parties can readily access. New Commonwealth legislation to give effect to these reforms will be brought forward in 2018.

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