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Benefits from aggregated data brokering by price comparison sites should reach insurance companies, says expert

The sale of aggregated, anonymised data on insurance product buyers by price comparison websites should benefit insurance companies as well as the aggregators themselves, an expert has said.

Specialist in litigation and compliance in the insurance market Iain Sawers of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that insurers should seek changes to their existing commercial contracts with price comparison sites where those sites make money from the sale of data about customers they help the sites attract.

Many insurance companies agree commercial contracts with price comparison websites that allow those websites to display information about the insurance cover those companies offer to users of the sites. The agreement allows insurance companies to reach parts of the insurance market they may otherwise not, whilst the price comparison sites get a commission on the sales generated through its platform.

Sawers said, though, that insurance companies should benefit from arrangements that see price comparison sites "extract additional value" from customer data through the sale of that data in aggregated, anonymised form.

"Insurance companies should look to change their existing commercial arrangements with price comparison sites where those sites sell aggregated data about customers they help those sites generate," Sawers said. "The benefits insurance companies should look to gain may be in gaining discounted access to the data those price comparison sites have compiled, or alternatively through a reduction in the price they will pay those sites for customer referrals."

Sawers was commenting after the Financial Times reported that price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com is set to expand its practice of selling aggregated, anonymised data about its 21 million customers to third parties. The website allows users to compare prices for a range of products and services, including certain insurance offerings.

Peter Plumb, chief executive of Moneysupermarket.com, said that the company hopes to generate £10 million from selling aggregated data about its motor insurance customers to insurance companies this year and that it intends to start selling aggregated data gathered from other areas of its business, such as about home insurance customers, according to the report.

"I don’t think there’s any other business out there that has the breadth and depth of quote data that we have," Plumb said, according to the report.

Data protection laws apply to personal data and not data which has been anonymised, meaning companies face fewer restrictions in the sale of anonymised data than they do for personal information. UK data protection laws do not, however, require anonymisation measures to guarantee that individuals cannot be reidentified through the matching of that data with other information.

The debate around the use of anonymised data has been prominent recently in discussions over a new data sharing regime being set up within the NHS in England.

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