Quarter of consumers back data sharing to help with bills

DataIQ News

Despite the negativity surrounding data sharing practices, more than a quarter (27%) of UK consumers would be happy for service providers - such as water, energy and telephone companies - to hand their personal data over to other suppliers or third parties, to help them better manage their bill payments.

A new study from outsourced customer contact specialist Echo Managed Services surveyed 1,000 UK residents on their knowledge and attitudes to debt and asked how they would feel about everyday providers sharing their personal data among themselves or with organisations such as charities to assist them in meeting their financial commitments.

It found that 27% of people would be happy for their information to be shared if it was used to help them better manage their bills or provide more tailored support if they fell behind on payments.

However, not everyone is quite so receptive to the idea, with one in five (20%) people saying they would not agree to data sharing, even if it could provide more proactive and personalised debt support. Another 29% of those surveyed also stated that they would worry about the security of their data if it was shared in this way.

Interestingly, the age groups which claim be to be most financially stretched (25-34 and 35-44) were most reticent about data sharing. But the study suggests this may be reflective of today's "debt stigma"; the fact that 52% of people believe there is a degree of shame attached to asking providers for help if they fall into arrears.

Echo Managed Services customer services director Monica Mackintosh insisted that data sharing can enable companies to develop better insight and intelligence about their customer base, more accurately create payment profiles for individual bill payers and provide more targeted support for customers who need it most.

She believes it is likely that data sharing holds part of the solution to help better manage bill payment and more tailored support for customers.

Mackintosh added: "Despite this, it's important not to assume that customers would automatically be happy to share their data – even if it would help them in the long-run. Trust plays an important role here, and recent high profile data leaks are likely to have undermined consumer confidence in the ways their personal data is handled.

"Being open and transparent and educating consumers around data sharing and data usage may go some way in alleviating these concerns, providing suppliers ensure they follow through on this, using data alongside the right technologies to drive proactive and tailored support for customers in arrears; making sure they experience real benefit and not just data sharing for sharing's sake."