Brands to be forced to release data

Companies will be forced into providing consumers instant digital access to data collected for marketing purposes if they fail to do so voluntarily under Government proposals to accelerate progress of its midata initiative.

data

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has put brands on notice after growing frustrated with the rate of progress made in voluntarily launching initiatives to provide consumers with transaction and consumption data in a machine readable format. Just a handful of companies, including Scottish Power and Lloyds Banking Group, have taken action since midata launched in November 2011.

The department has given companies until September 2014 to demonstate progress or face legislation. The decision to act follows a consultation over the summer.

Midata is intended to hand 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 the initiative as a way to build trust by being seen as open and transparent.

Employment and Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson will announce Monday (19 November) midata is about “putting power into the hands of consumers”.

“Many businesses reap huge commercial benefits from the information they gather from consumers’ daily spending patterns. Why shouldn’t consumers also benefit from this by having access to their own data to enable them to make better choices?” she adds.

The move to force action was welcomed by Direct Marketing Association executive director Chris Combermale, who called on companies to meet consumer demand for greater exchange of data.

He adds: “We call on companies to take the initiative to be open and transparent with consumers about the information they hold and how they use it. The consequences of failing to do so would be detrimental to businesses and the economy.  

Consumer group Which? also supported the shift. “Giving consumers more power with their personal data will help them make better use of their money.”

The move 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.

A further consultation will be launched if secondary legislation to enact the regulation-making power is required.

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