OFT To Investigate Behavioural Targeting, Price Comparison Sites

The Office of Fair Trading will this autumn open an investigation in to whether advertising rules should be changed to protect consumers from online practices. The OFT will examine price comparison websites, behavioural targeting and using personal data to target specific users with varying prices.

It says it will check for “potential benefits and harm to consumers”. Behavourial targeting, in particular, has proved a thorny issue of late. Muddied by the controversy surrounding Phorm’s own approach – on-network behavioural monitoring – other industry players recently signed a joint code of practice in a bid to reassure consumers. It’s likely the inquiry will also look at some price comparison sites practice of charging suppliers for prominence.

The OFT’s inquiry will not cover TV ads but will not be limited to the internet. It’s seeking consultation submissions from firms, trade bodies, consumer groups, other government bodies and academics on the scope of the study. It could result in them being urged to draw up a stronger code of conduct, in misbehaving companies being penalised or referred to the Competition Commission, or the government being advised to tighten up legislation. More here.