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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
Image from Montgomery County Animal Services & Adoption Center
news
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
Arts and Entertainment
Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara are seen on the set of 'Despierta America' to promote the film 'Fantastic Four'
filmMichael B Jordan and Kate Mara in latest awkward film interview
Life and Style
BMW factory
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen