Brands could be forced to release more data

The Government wants to force companies to allow consumers instant digital access to the information collected for marketing purposes under proposals to accelerate progress of its midata initiative.


Ministers have grown frustrated with the rate of progress made by brands in all but the energy sector. Twenty five brands, including Google, Lloyds Banking Group and signed up to develop initiatives to release consumption and transaction data proactively or on request when midata launched in November 2011.

The aim was to give consumers more control over their data and help them make better choices when deciding which products and services to buy. It was hoped brands would see midata as a way to build trust by being seen as open and transparent.

In a consultation document, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills proposes several measures to kick-start take-up of the initiative. One measure would be to “create an order making power, which if utilised, would compel suppliers of services and goods to provide to their customers, upon request, historic transaction and consumption data in an open standard machine readable format.”

Under the proposals, brands would only be compelled to release data if requested to by a customer and requests would be restricted to consumption and transaction data.

Introduction of such a law will be seen by some as a shift in the Government’s approach to regulation. Since coming to office in 2010, the coalition has favoured voluntary agreements over statutory rules to drive change in business practises.

In the consultation document foreword, minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs Norman Lamb says although there is evidence of “encouraging progress there is much more to do.”

He adds: “The Government wants to unlock the huge potential that the midata programme has revealed and give the UK the chance to be at the forefront of this emerging market….. In the digital age this will provide the foundation for applications and services that will benefit business and consumers alike.”

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