Consumers can demand data on spending habitsCustomers can request personal information held on them

19 November 2012

Online privacy

Which? has welcomed new plans for companies to give consumers data on their spending habits that could help them save money and make better buying decisions. 

Under new plans by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), consumers will be given new powers to request personal data held on them by big companies such as energy providers, credit card companies and mobile phone providers. 

Having access to this data could help consumers better manage their money and make better lifestyle choices. 

For more information on how to protect your data, and what companies need to do to protect your information, read our guide to the Data Protection Act.

Get your shopping data from Tesco

The data - to be released under the 'midata' programme - could mean that consumers can request electronic information a company holds on them relating to what they've spent with that company. 

For instance, a regular Tesco shopper could request data the supermarket holds on them relating to their grocery buying. 

Or, an individual could request data held on them by their mobile phone provider to see what times of the day or when during the week they use their phone the most. 

This could give individuals a better understanding of their spending and usage habits and help people save money by making better choices on phone and energy tariffs and even on weekly grocery bills. 

Which? says

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd 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.

'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.'

Companies shouldn't fail to comply

The current plans are a voluntary code which means that companies have agreed they will release consumers' electronic data upon request.

But, if companies fail to give consumers the data they require, the government could bring in a law to force companies to comply. 

Announcing the new plans, Employment and Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said: ''midata' 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 make better choices?'

More on this...

  • Get to know all your rights under the Data Protection Act
  • Find out what Which? is doing to help protect your data
  • Top tips on protecting your online data