CONSULTATION ON LEGISLATING TO GIVE CONSUMERS ACCESS TO DATA IN ELECTRONIC, MACHINE-READABLE FORM

How to respond

When responding please state whether you are responding as an individual or representing the views of an organisation.

If you are responding on behalf of an organisation please make it clear who the organisation represents by selecting the appropriate interest group on the consultation form.

This consultation closes on the 10th September 2012
A copy of the consultation response form available online at http://www.bis.gov.uk/Consultations/midata-review-and-consultation?cat=open. If you decide to respond this way, the form can be submitted by letter, fax or preferably by email to:

Email: midata@bis.gsi.gov.uk or craig.belsham@bis.gsi.gov.uk
Craig Belsham,
Head of Consumer Empowerment Strategy,
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,
1 Victoria Street,
London,
SW1H 0ET

Tel: 020 7214 5884

Fax: 020 7217 2234

You may make copies of this document without seeking permission. Further printed copies of the consultation document can be obtained from:

BIS Publications Orderline
ADMAIL 528
London SW1W 8YT
Tel: 0845-015 0010
Fax: 0845-015 0020
Minicom: 0845-015 0030
www.bis.gov.uk/publications

Confidentiality and Data Protection

Information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be subject to publication or release to other parties or to disclosure in accordance with the access to information regimes (these are primarily the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004). If you want information, including personal data that you provide to be treated as confidential, please be aware that, under the FOIA, there is a statutory Code of Practice with which public authorities must comply and which deals, amongst other things, with obligations of confidence.

In view of this it would be helpful if you could explain to us why you regard the information you have provided as confidential. If we receive a request for disclosure of the information we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot give an assurance that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as binding on the Department.

1.1.
The Coalition set out in its programme for Government:
“We need to promote more responsible corporate and consumer behaviour through greater transparency and by harnessing the insights from behavioural economics and social psychology."
1.2.
The Government believes the midata programme has the potential to help both consumers and businesses in a number of ways:

Consumers will be better able to exercise choice. With access to their transaction data, consumers will be able to make better informed decisions and choose those products which offer them the best value. This in turn will reward firms offering the best value in particular markets, allowing them to win more customers and so drive competition.

Businesses will be given a platform for innovation. With the increasing availability of data, new mobile applications are being developed which promise to help consumers by providing them with targeted information to help them make better decisions. midata promises to further boost innovation as new ways are developed to use the data that will become available.

midata will create opportunities for new markets to develop. Businesses that help consumers use their data to make better consumption decisions and manage their lifestyle choices will emerge. Access to data in a usable format will ensure that the UK is well placed to take advantage of what is a strong potential growth market. Indeed, evidence from other countries, including the US’ “Smart Disclosure” programme and the World Economic Forum’s work on personal data, shows that genuine opportunities exist for insight and innovation as a result of opening up data.

Increased data transparency could also have a deregulatory effect by facilitating greater consumer choice. Giving people access to their consumption data in a format which is machine readable may make it possible to avoid the need for some types of market interventions by regulators, for example specifying product characteristics. This would mean that the midata initiative could have an overall deregulatory impact.
1.3.
In the last year progress towards these goals has been made using the voluntary approach to the midata programme, but the Government is keen to move more quickly to open up the opportunities for growth and innovation. As such, we are consulting on granting an order-making power to enable us to require certain consumption data to be released electronically at the consumer’s request.
1.4.
The power would grant the Secretary of State the power to compel suppliers of goods/services to supply, at a consumer’s request, personal transaction data relating to their purchase/consumption of products and services from that supplier in a machine readable format.
1.5.
Individuals are already able to request access to personal information that a business holds about them under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). However, whereas the DPA simply requires them to communicate it in “an intelligible form”, with discretion about precisely what that form is, the new requirement would be to provide it in a machine readable commonly used open standard format.
1.6.
This proposed new requirement will be much more targeted approach than the DPA currently mandates. Our view is that the requirement:

Would only relate to transaction data relating to a consumer’s purchase/consumption of products and services from that supplier;

Would only cover factual information, for example what a consumer bought, where they bought it, how much they paid for it etc.;

Would not cover any subsequent analysis that the data holder has undertaken on the information;

Would only apply to businesses that already hold this information electronically and it will only have to be released if requested by consumers. Businesses would not be required to collect any new information.
1.7.
As part of its work to introduce Smart Meters that will provide greater accuracy and energy consumption detail, the Department of Energy and Climate Change is considering issues relating to privacy and data access. The Government will ensure that any regulatory provisions that are put in place affecting the energy sector will be fully compatible with those regulatory provisions created for the roll-out of Smart Metering.
1.8.
We are seeking input in a number of areas on the proposal in order to help get the details right and enable an implementation that will be as future proof as possible.

We should be grateful for your views on the questions below by the 7th September 2012
 
11% of survey complete.

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