New research is being conducted into the practice of retailers targeting online shoppers and charging people different prices for the same items through personalised pricing.
Personalised pricing involves customers spending different amounts when searching for the same products, tailored to the specific customer journey they have taken.
The research will explore whether and how personalised pricing makes use of personal data points such as a consumers address, marital status, birthday and travel history.
The government-commissioned research, supported by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), will explore how widespread this practice is, how businesses are applying it through different mediums like search engines, apps or comparison tools and the extent to which personalised pricing is preventing shoppers getting the best deals.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said that ensuring markets work fairly and in the interests of consumers is “a cornerstone of [the government’s] modern Industrial Strategy”.
“UK businesses are leading the way in harnessing the power of new technologies and new ways of doing business, benefitting consumers and helping them save money.
“But we are clear that companies should not be abusing this technology and customer data to treat consumers, particularly vulnerable ones, unfairly.
“The research we are undertaking will help us better understand how we can ensure businesses work in a way that is fair to consumers.”
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, added: “With more of us shopping online, it’s important that we understand how advances in technology impact consumers.
“This personalised pricing research will help us stay at the forefront of emerging technology, so we can understand how best to protect people from unfair practices where they exist.
“We will also use the results of the research as part of our ongoing efforts to help vulnerable consumers.”