Regulator looking at firms unfair use of your cookies

16 November 2012

UK regulators have started to look at how firms use cookies online, in a bid to see if they're being unfair or not. Some companies, it seems, may be collecting data and using it in illegal ways.

It is thought, for example, that some customers may be charged more than others, simply because of their browsing habits or, possibly, the fact that they have a Mac rather than a PC.

The Office of Fair Trading is gathering more information to see if this is the case. We suspect certain airlines to get slapped with fines, mentioning no names, especially given that there's the idea that people have cleared their cookies and found the price of flights being cheaper than if they hadn't.

Naturally, cookies aren't all bad. Sometimes your loyalty to a retailer sees you getting cheaper deals, but if prices are being changed per customer, someone needs to look at it, and hard.

"Innovation online is an important driver of economic growth. Our call for information forms part of our ongoing commitment to build trust in online shopping so that consumers can be confident that businesses are treating them fairly," said Clive Maxwell, OFT chief executive.

"We know that businesses use information about individual consumers for marketing purposes. This has some important potential benefits to consumers and firms. But the ways in which data is collected and used is evolving rapidly."

"It is important we understand what control shoppers have over their profile and whether firms are using shoppers' profiles to charge different prices for goods or services. This call for information will help us understand these practices better and to decide whether or not this is an issue on which the OFT needs to take any action."

[BBC]

4 comments

  • Ziggurat
    Wow -- what about deals sites who claim not to use your personal data, but then do?
  • Sicknote
    Install Ghostery, switch it on to block all cookies & tracking and then you're protected against all these deal sites that track you to retailers and get a kick back.
  • Mustapha S.
    What is wrong with charging more for a mac version that windows? We do...
  • Dick
    It's a good idea to profile customers. If they come via ipad, charge them more - they are used to getting ripped off anyway. If they are using IE7, don't even send their goods. They are so out of date, they won't remember ordering them anyway.

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