Regulators mull joint action on personalised pricing

The ICO and OFT are in discussions over potentially backing the same set of sanctions for businesses who transgress guidelines on personalised pricing.  

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Speaking yesterday (25 June), at a conference on privacy and advertising representatives of the two regulatory bodies disclosed discussions over how to ensure consumer protection over online pricing models.

The process of ‘price discrimination’, or ‘price personalisation’ as it is often called, often involves using online behavioural modelling, either by the use of cookies or what kind of device they’re using, to decide what to charge a consumer.

This collection of data to determine a ‘customer profile’ can result in different people being charged different prices for exactly the same service. 

During a Q&A session, Jason Freeman, OFT legal director, said: “There was some discussion about producing some joint work but quite what that form will be – whether it’s a joint venture product or an ICO product is still being discussed, 

“But certainly there is something where want to put our heads together on the way consumer protection compliance.”

Dave Evans, ICO: “The important thing to remember is that in some ways companies can still be compliant with law but still be treating people appallingly

“That’s where there is an interest in joint work… It’s a trick issue, because one person’s  ‘price discrimination is another person’s ‘bargain’.”  

Last month the OFT published a report into ‘personalised pricing’ finding that while misuse of the practice is not widespread, it was disappointed at the levels of transparency from a few retailers. 

For instance, many of the websites did not make clear to consumers just what data they collected and how it would be used could have a detrimental effect on consumer trust of online services. 

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