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Big week in NSW’s open data drive

by Poppy Johnston •
Free resource

Topics: Data Analytics; Digital Transformation; NSW.

A new consumer complaints register, a real-time fuel price website, and an app allowing commuters to monitor congestion levels for crowded public transport services have all been launched this week by the New South Wales Government, in a bid to empower citizens to make decisions backed by data.

NSW Fair Trading has recently launched Australia’s first consumer complaints register, which will give consumers greater choice and encourage businesses to regulate themselves.

“This register empowers consumers to make informed decisions, and provides an incentive for traders to improve their business practices and accept full accountability for the goods and services they provide,” said NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe.

Any business subject of 10 or more complaints in one month makes the list, with LJ Hooker currently at top of the list with 31 complaints last month, followed by Harvey Norman with 29, and Air Asia with 25.

The private sector response suggests that the name-and-shame approach is having an immediate positive effect: Stowe noted that a number of businesses have publically committed to “never appearing on the register” and are making “wholesale changes to their business practices and dispute resolution protocols”.

In the preliminary stages of planning for the register’s publication, the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello had indicated his support for the relatively unconventional decision to publish raw complaints data, saying that “[c]onsumers should have the right to know which traders have high numbers of complaints against them so they can take this into account when purchasing goods and services. We want to create a fairer and more competitive marketplace through open data”.

Fuel prices will now also be open to public perusal thanks to the NSW Government’s new real-time fuel price website. The ‘FuelCheck’ website will act as a single source of truth for consumers and allow motorists to “search for the best deal by location, price, fuel type or brand”, according to Dominello.

“We already have laws that dictate how service stations can display petrol prices on their roadside signboard. We are simply extending this obligation to say that when you change your prices on the forecourt, you also need to report them online”, he said.   

Motorists can submit a complaint directly to NSW Fair Trading if the price at the pump does not match what is shown on FuelCheck.

Public transport users are also set to benefit further from the NSW Government’s proactive stance on open data, with partial data from the Opal public transport electronic ticketing system now being available so that commuters can see how full buses, trains and ferries are before they arrive.

“We know there are busy bus routes across the metro area, so letting customers know how busy their service is will enable them to make commuting choices earlier”, said Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance.

iOS travel app ‘NextThere’ is the first to take advantage of the new feature, showing icons on services to indicate the volume of people travelling on the service.

NSW’s appetite for data-driven innovation is largely motivated by the underlying potential for economic transformation. Minister Dominello told the Open Data Think Tank back in June 2015 that “[t]here is a strong economic case to fuel data-driven innovation through open data, and by increasing collaboration with the research sector, industry and non-government organisations”.

The government has since released a second open data policy and accompanying Open Data Action Plan focused on deepening engagement with government datasets with the intention of stimulating innovation.

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