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Spend & Save

Personal pricing may mean higher charges


Sophisticated software is allowing businesses to monitor our internet shopping and use the information gathered to offer us personalised prices.

While that could be great news for online shoppers if it leads to exclusive deals and discounts, there are fears that it could be doing exactly the opposite.

Critics warn that some data gathered may highlight those people who may be prepared to pay more. That could be because of previous sites visited which, if they are reasonably upmarket, point to someone who may be used to paying more.

It could be because you're a Mac user rather than a PC user, with the former, apparently, slightly more used to paying more. It could even be because your postcode is more upmarket.

Fears that the developing software could be used to disadvantage shoppers have prompted the Office of Fair Trading to launch a call for information to find out whether there is any evidence of market abuse.

"It is important we understand what control shoppers have over their profile and whether firms are using shoppers' profiles to charge different prices for goods or services," said Clive Maxwell, OFT chief.

The OFT will be gathering information over the next six months and is keen to hear from interested parties such as online retailers and software providers. It will publish its findings in Spring 2013.