The UK government has warned banks that it is prepared to legislate to force them to hand over current account and credit card data to customers who request it.
The threat relates to the midata project, which is designed to give Brits more access to, and control over, the data that companies hold on them so that they can get greater insight into their own spending habits and improve buying decisions.
Lloyds Banking Group, MasterCard and Visa are among the big firms in the finance, energy and telecoms sectors to voluntarily back the project, promising to give customers who ask for it their data in an electronic machine-readable standard format.
However, with many companies yet to commit, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has warned that, following a consultation over the summer, it is now preparing to legislate to force the handover of data in three 'core' sectors: current accounts and credit cards, the mobile phone and energy.
Jo Swinson, employment and consumer affairs minister, says: "'midata' is all about putting power into the hands of consumers. Many businesses reap huge commercial benefits from the information they gather from consumers' daily spending patterns. Why shouldn't consumers also benefit from this by having access to their own data to enable them to make better choices?"
The government argues that midata could help people manage money in an easier and more time efficient way, with banks developing services and applications which offer a full picture of accounts, bringing data from different providers together into one place.
Alison Brittain, group director, retail, Lloyds, says: "Lloyds Banking Group welcomes the 'midata' initiative as a means of helping consumers take greater control of their finances. We have for some time provided our customers with the ability to download current account and credit card information as we know how important this is in helping customers make informed decisions."
In addition to the money management aspect of the project, midata aims to help people accomplish tasks like seeing which energy and mobile tariff suit them best; comparing the prices and seeing the health benefits of their food across stores; and keeping up to date with the latest films, music or shows tailored to their previous choices and personal tastes.