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
Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
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
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
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: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ACCA/CIMA - St Albans, Hertfordshire

£55000 - £58000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - London, Old Street

£25000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - Londo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
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
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness