The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has launched a consultation on proposals to compel suppliers of goods and services to provide consumers access, upon request, to their personal transaction and consumption data in an open standard machine-readable format.  The UK Government (UKG) would prefer that the data be supplied at no cost and may also allow certain categories of small businesses to make such requests.  An existing enforcement body — possibly the Information Commissioner’s Office or a consumer protection body — is likely to be responsible for enforcing the proposed new requirement.

The consultation document explains that the proposed new requirement would offer a more targeted approach towards access to personal data than is currently available under the UK Data Protection Act 1998.  The requirement would:

  • only relate to transaction data regarding a consumer’s purchase/consumption of products and services from that supplier;
  • only cover factual information, for example what a consumer bought, where they bought it, and how much they paid for it;
  • not cover any subsequent analysis that the data holder has undertaken on the information; and
  • only apply to businesses that already hold this information electronically.  Businesses would not be required to collect any new information and existing information would only have to be released if requested by consumers. 

Following the European Commission’s proposals to reform the EU Data Protection Framework (see here and here), which also included a controversial data portability element, industry is likely to pay close attention to this UK initiative.

The closing date to respond to the consultation is 10 September 2012.  Interested parties may also join Open Forums discussing the consultation at the BIS Offices on August 9 (3-5pm), 16 (3.30-5.30pm) and 23 (3-5pm) by contacting

Further information 

The consultation is part of UKG’s consumer empowerment strategy, “Better Choices: Better Deals”, which was launched last year.  The “midata” project, which is part of this strategy, aims to give consumers more control and access to their personal data.  UKG’s main objectives upon launch of “midata” were to: 

  • secure broad private-sector participation in the project, with a key number of businesses agreeing to release individual, personal data to consumers;
  • let consumers access and use their data in a safe way; and
  • encourage businesses to develop innovative services and applications that will interpret and use the data for consumers. 

UKG describes the initiative as consistent with its broader focus on “transparency and open data”, which it hopes will contribute to economic growth by enabling consumers to make better informed decisions and allowing businesses to provide innovative services.  Until now participation in the project had been on a voluntary basis, with 19 major brands, including Google, MasterCard, Visa and others signing up last year.  The current proposal would build upon this and introduce an order making power to implement UKG’s midata vision.