Public get a nudge to dig into their shopping habits

Ministers hope millions will be able to view data held about their lifestyles and work out better deals

Companies will be forced to hand over to their customers the information they hold about their buying patterns to enable them to shop around and get better deals.

Energy and mobile phone companies, banks and credit card firms will have to provide the data held about customers' transactions when they request them. If they fail to do so voluntarily, the Government will pass legislation making it compulsory – and extend the "consumer power" plan to other businesses.

The "midata" programme, to be announced today, is designed to correct the imbalance under which companies build up a mountain of data about people's purchasing habits and lifestyles to help them sell their products – but consumers are often left in the dark about the practice.

Twenty energy, finance and telecoms firms have already signed up to the scheme. Ministers hope millions of people will be able to view their data on computers or mobile phones and work out quickly which energy or phone tariff suits them better; compare the prices or look at the health benefits of their food consumption across all stores; and be told about new films, music or shows tailored to their previous choices and personal taste.

The programme, drawn up by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill, was based on evidence from Downing Street's Behavioural Insights Team, which has been dubbed the "nudge unit".

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat Consumer Affairs Minister, said: "This is all 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 added: "It's great when your energy provider tells you how much gas or electricity you're using at any point in the year, or when phone companies tell you which one of their tariffs suits you best. But it's even better when consumers can use that information to get better-value-for-money deals or adjust their lifestyles. This is just one of many ways 'midata' can help, as businesses increasingly recognise sharing data as a means to deliver a better service for their customers."

Richard Lloyd, executive director of the consumer group Which?, said: "The 'midata' programme can help put consumers in the driving seat of the information revolution while boosting competition and supporting growth among companies that provide the best products and services."

He added: "We're pleased to see the Government putting in place measures to give people the right to data that companies hold on them.

"Giving consumers more power with their personal data will help them make better use of their money, and that's not only good for customer-friendly businesses, but good for growth in the economy."

The Government said it would consult business before making the programme compulsory.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy