Press release

CMA seeks information on commercial use of consumer data

The CMA is inviting consumers, businesses and academics to provide it with information on the commercial use of UK consumer data.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today issued a call for information as part of a wider project to understand fully how businesses collect and use consumer data – including how it affects consumers, businesses, competition and the wider economy.

Data is constantly being created by consumers – as they buy goods and services, as they browse websites and as they use their mobile devices. Collecting, combining and analysing this data has become an important activity for firms in many different sectors. The CMA is keen to understand more about the ways in which businesses collect and use data and the value of it both to businesses themselves and when sold or licensed for re-use by others. It will be looking at both the benefits and potential drawbacks that accompany this growing ability to understand consumer preferences, interests and behaviours. It will also consider the market impact of consumer protection legislation and other relevant regulations.

Alex Chisholm, CMA Chief Executive, said:

The ease and extent with which consumer data can be collected and analysed has increased hugely in recent years and will grow further with continuing technological developments.

We have witnessed a strong drive to gather our personal data by internet companies. This has a positive side, in that it helps us get access to new online services, to receive more targeted advertising and better tailored service offerings. But not everyone appreciates the collection of our personal data and observation of our online behaviour.

One of our priorities as a new authority is to take a closer look at developments and practices in growing areas such as this. We want to understand better the ways in which consumer data is used, as well as the consequences from this – beneficial or otherwise – for consumers, businesses and the wider economy, and how the CMA may promote competition in this area.

As an initial step, we want to get the views of all those involved – consumers, firms, representative groups and those who analyse and use the data.

Further details on the call for information are available on our webpage, including details of how to respond to the CMA, and contact details for those who want to submit specific information or research.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. From 1 April 2014 it took over the functions of the Competition Commission and the competition and certain consumer functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

  2. This call for information is focused on consumer data which:
    • relates to UK consumers and is collected both inside and outside the UK, both in the context of the Internet and more widely;
    • is collected directly by businesses as well as by appliances, applications and cloud services;
    • is collected at any time, both with and without the knowledge of consumers;
    • includes both data on specific transactions for goods and services (including paid for and free-at-use services) as well as data not specific to such transactions; and
    • is used by:
      • firms dealing directly with consumers (for instance to target groups and individuals with offers); and
      • third party firms (using data sourced from firms dealing directly with consumers) who analyse this data to provide commercial services to other firms.
  3. The deadline for responses to the call for information is 6 March 2015.

  4. The CMA carries out calls for information under its general review function in section 5 of the Enterprise Act 2002. Calls for information enable the CMA to assess markets and they may, but need not be a pre-cursor to a market study.

  5. The CMA will be liaising closely with government, regulators and other bodies that are active in a number of areas related to consumer data, including the Ofcom work on the Internet of Things.

  6. UK competition authorities have previously been active in examining some of these developments surrounding consumer data. The OFT carried out a series of projects relating to the online economy and to the use of data including looking at online targeted advertising in 2010 and at personalised pricing in 2013.

  7. The CMA is unable to provide individual consumers with redress in relation to concerns about their consumer data and how it is used. The Information Commissioner’s Office is responsible for upholding information rights.

  8. Enquiries should be directed to Rory Taylor, (rory.taylor@cma.gsi.gov.uk) or by ringing 020 3738 6798.

  9. For information on the CMA see our homepage, or follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn.
Published 27 January 2015