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Government fast-tracks power to support customer access to business data

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19th Nov 2012
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The UK government has announced that it will fast-track measures to force firms to hand over customers' personal data if they fail to do so voluntarily when requested.  

As part of the midata program, businesses will be required to hand over data, such as household utility usage, banking, internet transactions and high street loyalty cards, in order to help customers compare prices and benefit from the cheapest tariff.

The government said it will initially focus on three ‘core’ sectors initially – current accounts and credit cards, the mobile phone and energy sectors – with the power to extend the regulation to other sectors if needed.

"'midata' is all about putting power into the hands of consumers," explained employment and consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson. "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?"

Current legislation enables customers to request their personal information from companies but to do so they must pay a fee of up to £10 and are unable to see all of the data that is held. 

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has welcomed the government’s acceleration of the program and called on companies to use this opportunity 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," said executive director Chris Combemale.

He added: "According to research conducted by the DMA, 85% of consumers would prefer to hold their own personal data and exchange it with companies when they choose. Indeed, more and more consumers view their personal data as a form of capital to be collected and traded for better service, better offers and better long-term benefits.

"Companies that catch up with this new consumer trend will have to innovate and outdo their competitors to offer the most compelling benefits to consumers to encourage them to share their information. This form of competition-based self-regulation will be the most effective way of giving consumers greater control over their data."

The government launched its vision for midata in November last year, with 26 organisations subsequently signing up to help achieve that.

New powers compelling businesses to provide customer data are expected to come into force by early 2014.

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