The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has recently launched a consultation on proposals to compel suppliers of goods and services to give consumers access to their transaction data on request. The consultation is part of the government's 'midata' strategy which aims to give consumers access to their historic transaction and consumption data. This includes data created through their internet transactions, household utility use, banking and high street loyalty cards.

The proposal is to give consumers new rights to access their transaction data in an electronic, portable and machine-readable format. The objective of this is to enable consumers to make easier and more enlightened choices about future purchases.

The requirement to provide data would only cover factual information, not any subsequent analysis conducted by the data holder, and would only apply to businesses that already hold transaction data electronically (it would not require businesses to collect new information).

The Government's proposals are similar to the 'data portability' concept emerging from the European Commission's proposals to reform the data protection regime, but it seems that UK Government is keen to push ahead with its own version prior to the European DP Regulation coming into force (see Related publications).

The consultation includes questions on:

  • The sectors that should be covered by the order (at present the Government is suggesting that all private sector companies should be covered, with the possible exception of SMEs).
  • The type of data that will be covered by the Order - the focus is on consumer transaction data and not on any analysis done by companies.
  • Whether consumers should be able to direct companies to pass data directly to third parties.
  • Whether authorised third parties should be able to request data directly.
  • The format in which data should be provided.
  • Costs that are likely to be involved in complying with such requests - the Government is currently minded to allow consumers to make requests without charge.
  • Types of new services that may be developed as a result of the proposals for intermediaries such as price comparison sites.

Should the government proceed with its proposals, it will have a major impact on the administration of consumer facing businesses, many of whom will be keen to respond and ensure that their views are heard. The deadline for responses is 10 September.