BIS – abandon midata as a bad job. Now.
Is it safe? Yes or no?
In their 3 November 2011 press release Government, business and consumer groups commit to midata vision of consumer empowerment, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said:
Now, 14 months later, we are still none the wiser how midata would "empower" consumers.
The following consumer groups and regulators are working with midata to represent consumers' interests and concerns. As well as working towards potential benefits, their input plays an important role in identifying potential risks and helping determine how these can be addressed:
- Citizens Advice
- Communications Consumer Panel
- Consumer Focus
- Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
- Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
If the regulators in the list above had succeeded in their task, then no-one would be considering midata. We are still none the wiser how midata could succeed where the regulators have failed.
Jo Swinson MP is the Minister responsible for midata and she posted an article on the Which? blog last month, What if companies gave me control of my data?. What indeed. We are still none the wiser how midata could give consumers control of their data. That control depends on changes in the law worldwide and those changes are not in BIS's gift.
What about Which? themselves? The Consumers' Association. Where do they stand on midata?
The Which? response to BIS's midata consultation opens by saying that midata is a good idea and then spends several pages describing the dangers of identity theft which would be exacerbated by midata. So which is it? Are they in favour, or not?
As you would expect from the most respected consumer group in the country, with 56 years of worthy service behind them, Which? run a commendably open blog. And in one of the comments on the Jo Swinson article Which?'s in-house lawyer, Georgina Nelson, highlights the risks associated with midata and says (17 January 2013 at 11:40 am):
The title of BIS's 3 November 2011 press release is misleading. Which?, at least, are not "committed to the midata vision". Their support is, quite rightly, contingent.
Our position has always been that our support for the midata programme is contingent upon addressing these issues.
It's up to BIS to demonstrate that midata would be safe. Failing that, Which? can't support it.
It's hard to imagine that anyone else could support it either.
So – question: can BIS demonstrate that midata would be safe for consumers? Yes or no? They can't tell us how it would empower us or how it would give us control over our data but can they at least convince us that midata would be safe?
If not, perhaps BIS would like to abandon midata as a bad job now and promote consumer empowerment in some effective way.
Which? could no doubt make several suggestions how BIS could spend their time and our money better.
Which? is a shadow of it's former consumer champion self.
It is no more than a marketing tool for government departments, big business and regulators these days.
The debacle of their "fixed means fixed" campaign regarding increases mid term in mobile phone fixed contracts is plain for all to see.
A process that OFCOM could have resolved in July 2012, is currently still out for consultation in 2013.
Secret backroom meetings with Eon and others regarding their campaign against doorstep selling saw Which? condone doorstep selling in the meeting notes.
Which? denied this was the case when asked on twitter, yet was clearly stated in the meeting notes, from 8 months earlier.
Much of what Which? does today is about keeping it's voice & position with big business, regulators and in turn governments and less about standing up for consumers.
Talking shops are all well and good, but taking on test cases and forcing regulators and policy makers hands are lacking.
The final straw for me with Which? was the guest conversation post regarding a "not for profit" group running financial education in schools - that has strong links to the banks, while refusing to answer the simple question of will the education cover consumer redress?
I have had conversation posts that have appeared on my logged in page view, showing as part of the conversation, but when not logging in as a recognised user, have been hidden from view.
I have had a friend logged in to the which? website to check my post and they to reported that it was hidden. (I got the excuse some days later, that it was held in a moderation queue, where as other posts of mine on the same topic were published immediately. Only the critical one was hidden. Coincidence?)
It is a great shame, because the UK consumer is crying out to be represented, at present, apart from consumer group forums and talking shops, no one with any power is listening or remotely interested if it may jepardise their income/position.
An apples to apples comparison holds true.
What looks like an apple today is nothing like an apple was as we remember it.
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