Singapore’s consumer watchdog announces studies on data portability and online travel booking
The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has announced two new market studies into the online travel booking sector and data portability. These initiatives were revealed by Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Ministry Of Trade & Industry and National Development at the official launch of the CCCS, which was renamed as such from the Competition Commission of Singapore. The agency has taken on the responsibility of administering the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (Chapter 52A) or CPFTA with effect from 1 April 2018, in addition to the the Competition Act (Cap. 50B).
Joint study with the Personal Data Protection Commission on data portability
One of the key initiatives is a joint one with the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC). The two agencies will be working together to study consumer protection, competition and personal data protection issues, which could arise if a data portability requirement is introduced in Singapore.
Internationally, several jurisdictions have provided, or are considering providing for a right to data portability. This will enable individual consumers to request for the personal data and other data which they have provided to a service provider, in a format which is structured, commonly used and machine-readable. This empowers consumers and allows them more control over their personal data.
It enhances the ability of consumers to choose between service providers and, facilitates switching providers, once they have made that choice, as it eliminates the need to repeatedly provide their details each time they switch providers. Thus, data portability can lead to better competition and more convenience for consumers.
In addition, the right to data portability could extend to requiring service providers to transmit the personal data to another service provider without hindrance, where it is technically feasible. The ease of switching will in turn foster competition between service providers and also encourage them to innovate and develop new services, resulting in more choices for consumers.
Study on the online travel booking sector
CCCS will also be conducting a market study into the online travel booking sector, to take a closer look at whether the market is functioning well.
Singaporeans are increasingly well-travelled and they are using online travel booking platforms as a key channel to search and purchase travel-related products, including air tickets and accommodation, other than purchasing directly from the service providers, for example the hotels and airlines.
CCCS’s market study will focus on understanding the industry landscape relating to both the provision of flight tickets and hotel accommodation in Singapore. This will help CCCS to understand how commercial practices and arrangements in the online travel sector impacts competition and consumers in Singapore.
In particular, CCCS intends to look into the types of commercial arrangements entered into between third party online travel booking platforms and the service providers, including how such commercial arrangements are negotiated and applied in Singapore. It will also study competition between online travel booking platforms and service providers.