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UK watchdog’s new ‘Behavioural Hub’ to help better understand consumers

The UK’s competition watchdog has launched a “behavioural hub” to help boost its understanding of consumer issues.

Andrea Coscelli (pictured), the Competition and Markets Authority chief executive, said the move has been designed to strengthen its role in holding companies, such as ticketing firms, that rip off consumers accountable.

The new unit will draw on economics, data science and behavioural science to enhance its understanding of consumer issues.

Coscelli said in a statement: “We can combine the issues that consumers are aware of with analysis of data on consumer behaviour – in other words, what consumers actually do – and our knowledge of issues that consumers are not aware of, such as hidden price increases.

“With this in mind, our new Data and Technology Insight team is building our understanding of the innovation ecosystem, while looking to the future to understand how markets and firms are changing in light of developments in data and technology.”

The CMA’s team of data scientists and engineers, emerging technology experts and behavioural scientists that are looking to tackle emerging problems like fake online reviews, manipulation of the online environment to steer consumers’ choices and algorithms used by businesses that work against consumers’ interests.

These algorithms affect the prices paid by consumers for products and services like tickets for football games and music concerts, petrol, holidays, or anything bought on digital marketplaces.

Most recently, the CMA warned ticketing firm StubHub that it could be breaking UK consumer law due to issues with the information provided on its website.

As part of regular monitoring, the CMA said it is concerned that the firm is not complying with commitments it made to clean up its site following a consumer law investigation.

Last year Andrew Tyrie, the CMA’s chair, demanded new powers to strengthen the watchdog’s consumer-protection credentials to allow it to autonomously punish companies. Coscelli said, according to the Financial Times, he was “cautiously optimistic” that the government would agree to strengthen its position in enforcement action.

Image: CMA