In our latest opinion column, Faye Lipson says shoppers at Tesco are faced with a choice: hand over your data or face higher prices. How do you feel?
While reaching for coffee in Tesco, I noticed something odd. There were two prices on the shelf – the regular price of £6 and, in a larger font and highlighted in yellow, a ‘Clubcard Price’ of £2.70.
Other shelves were dotted with similar examples. I’m not averse to loyalty cards. I’ve had a Clubcard, Nectar card, a Holland & Barrett card, and others in the past. Tesco says 20 million homes hold Clubcards and 6.6 million regularly use the app.
Huge numbers of us willingly share our data on an ongoing basis in exchange for a future discount – a reward for loyalty. But Clubcard Prices now work the other way round. They say: ‘Give us your data now or we will charge more for the same item.’
It’s not about loyalty; it’s forcing you to sign up immediately (which is possible online) or be punished here and now. It’s coercive. Supermarket loyalty cards gather vast amounts of your personal data.
Swipe one with every shop and it builds a picture of your life, including sensitive details, such as the alcohol you drink and medications you take. This insight is hugely valuable to supermarkets – it must be, if they’ll happily halve some of their prices to get it.
Wherever vast troves of personal data are collected, there is a security risk. Tesco knows this only too well. In 2020 it reissued 600,000 Clubcards after finding a data breach – although its own systems were not hacked.
In a 2014 breach, personal details (including passwords) of 2,000 online customers were extracted and dumped online, prompting it to suspend accounts temporarily.
Shoppers confronted with such hugely differing prices will need to trade some privacy for cheaper shopping. Those who can afford to pay full price may be able to buy themselves out of this predicament.
How do you feel about data trade-offs like this? Let us know in the comments.