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Big Brother supermarkets: your shopping habits monitored to offer car insurance deals

Nic McBride

Nic McBride
Dec 15, 2017

Tesco and Sainsbury’s are tracking how often you shop and what you buy to determine whether to offer cheap car insurance deals.

The two supermarket giants are using information gathered from your Nectar card and Clubcard to determine what kind of risk profile you have.


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They're not monitoring how you steer your trolley down the aisles – but if you shop at regular times, you could be in for a deal, Reuters has reported.

For instance, if you make regular, predictable visits to stores it shows you plan ahead - a characteristic associated with being a more cautious and safer driver.

So you might want to think twice about that late-night dash to Tesco Metro.

Sainsbury's claims it does not look at what individual items people are buying – so no need to put that bottle of wine back.

But, it does look at a range of ‘anonymised’ purchases that can collectively show behavioural tendencies.

If you’re not entirely comfortable with this ‘Big Brother’ approach, you may prefer a more tried and tested route to getting a great car insurance deal.

Changing your shopping habits could get you better car insurance.

What the supermarkets are doing may not go down well with everyone, but it is entirely legal.

Paul Bernal, internet privacy and personal data expert at the University of East Anglia, said this rang alarm bells.

If the information was an accurate picture of the customer’s lifestyle and behaviour, that could breach their privacy, he warned. And if the data was misleading, that could lead to the customer being unfairly treated, he said.

Both supermarket groups said data was only used to offer discounts to some shoppers, never to increase prices.

But Bernal warned some customers could be worse off based on their behaviour, in ways they might not understand.

For example, those who do not buy the right products or shop in the right way could miss out on discounts without realising.


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Sainsbury's says data collection means cheaper deals

Sainsbury’s Bank chief executive Peter Griffiths said its 1.8 million customers could get cheaper offers on products such as home and car insurance based on what they buy and how they shop.

"Our strategy is to be the bank for the Sainsbury’s shopper, and we’re uniquely placed to use the power of data to offer better prices and products," Griffiths said.


Tesco is watching you

Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer, whose banking arm has 8 million accounts, uses data from its Clubcard to offer discounts on car, home and pet insurance products.

Tesco spokesman Chris Sibbald said they assessed a range of data and criteria.

"We’re not just looking at how people fill up cars at Tesco petrol stations and whether they do that at night, because they might be a taxi driver for example and there’s a reason for it, but together with other data you can build a picture," he said.

"We’re trying to understand people’s shopping habits, and then see how can you use that to tailor the products and offer some of them a better price. The key thing is we don’t use it to up-price people."