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Guest post: ‘midata latest’ by David Rawlins

Posted on: Tuesday 8th of July 2014

In this guest blog post David Rawlins, Programme Leader midata, at the Department of Business Innovation and Skills discusses progress of the midata programme.

The UK’s midata programme, which encourages companies to hand back to their customers the personal data they hold on them, has been going for a while now so we have been reviewing progress and have published a report.

Review of the midata voluntary programme

In two sectors, energy and personal current accounts, there have recently been some positive developments.

On 11 June, a ministerial roundtable hosted by Jenny Willott (Consumer Affairs Minister) and Ed Davey (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) brought together senior representatives of the energy retailers, comparison sites, app developers and consumer groups to discuss how energy companies can provide automated, secure access to third parties, with consumers’ permission. This should reduce the friction involved for consumers in getting accurate comparisons of offers on the market. It builds on the progress made last year whereby the largest energy companies now all provide consistent midata downloads to their online account customers. An implementation group of the organisations represented at the roundtable has been set up to work through the issues involved and to report back to that meeting by September.

New energy data sharing systems to be developed

A key one of these issues is trust and the group will be looking, among other things, at what principles can be agreed for companies to work to in order to reassure consumers, companies holding personal data and app developers alike. One input to this is a draft set of principles recently published for consultation under the auspices of the Information Economy Council.

Addressing consumer confidence in the Information Economy: principles for consultation

That work and the trust workstream of the implementation group are being led by the Connected Digital Economy Catapult.

In this year’s Budget, the Treasury announced that the big banks had committed to providing their personal current account customers with midata downloads in a consistent format. This will help comparison sites use them to provide tailored advice about the offers in the market. On 24 June, the Treasury reported that the types and format of the data to be included in the midata downloads have now been agreed and the banks are now working to adapt their systems to implement the download facility by the end of March 2015

Online current account comparison moves a step closer

When the Government first introduced the idea of midata it was a very new concept and many people struggled to understand why it was important. Since then, the idea has gained currency and acceptance and now these developments in banking and energy, along with the new initiatives to ensure trust, show how midata is gaining traction. We’ve got lots more to do. For example over the coming months we will be encouraging companies in in the mobile phone and credit card sectors to learn from what is happening in energy and current accounts. We will also keep the potential use of legislative powers that are available to us under close review for the reminder of the year.

Meanwhile the important point to note is that midata is moving from ‘nice idea in theory’ to real day-to-day practice.

by David Rawlins, Programme Leader of midata, Department of Business Innovation and Skills