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You know, there are so many people who act like they're champions of the consumers... People defending the average Joe against the Big Bad Corporations. Which is fine.

What I don't see so many of are people who'll hold their hands up and admit that consumers are stupid, that they'll blindly follow companies based on nothing more than brand loyalty until they get screwed over, then complain that they allowed themselves to be put in that position.

And while I'm in rant mode, here's some articles I nicked off the Card Industry News page on the intranet at work..
Mencap is to mount an attack on credit and store card companies who prey on people with learning disabilities at Christmas. The charity wants to raise awareness about the number of people with a learning disability who have found themselves facing huge debts as a result of being given credit and store cards
Okay, hold on a second. Preying on these people? Hardly. It's not within the scope of our powers to determine whether somebody has a learning disability, never mind whether that might impair their ability to responsibly use the credit we offer. And I know what criteria we use for sending out applications, and none of it involves whether they have learning difficulties, so it's not like anybody is deliberately preying on anyone. All we can do is credit check them in accordance with the information provided to us by credit reference agencies.

Should there be more control so that vulnerable people don't get access to credit? Absolutely, I'm all for that. But should it be on the credit card companies to assess their vulnerability? Or should it really be the job of the credit reference agencies to factor the health of individuals into their credit scoring methodology? Come to that, do consumer credit laws allow us to base creditworthiness on learning disabilities? Could we start using other health-related criteria, such as age? Illness? Could we refuse somebody a card because we think they might die and leave us with their debt?

The bottom line is, that's not the industry's call to make. Let's protect people from being given credit when they shouldn't be, but let's do it via legislation that sets out exactly what we can and can't do. Let's make sure that discrimination, data protection, and credit laws all support the same goal of protecting people, without conflicting messages or scope for misinterpretation.

And on a lighter note..
Retailers have responded to David Blunkett calling into question the security of store card databases. Tesco claimed it never shares customer details with third parties. A Home Office spokesman said that Mr Blunkett was only using the issue of loyalty cards to put the debate about ID cards into context
So the ever trustworthy Mr Blunkett used misinformation in order to add context to the debate about whether the government should be monitoring us? Apparently, it's okay to lie if it illustrates your point. How un-1984 of him!

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The whole issue of data privacy is a bit of a minefield to be honest. In terms of the Tesco issue - they release a variety of data which has been modelled off their clubcard database to any of their instore suppliers (for a fee of course). This data cannot isolate individuals but does allow people to profile segments of a customer base.

They also do a bunch of interesting stuff based around product purchase propensity - e.g. they are working on a project to 'guess' whether or not you are Asian based around the products you buy, when you buy them, the frequency you buy them etc etc

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