The Office for National Statistics has revealed plans to use millions of online prices from websites in the UK’s official inflation statistics as part of its ambitious strategy to transform the way it collects and publishes data. Around 750,000 prices are being collected every week from 30 different retailers across 80 different product types. This will allow ONS to fully capture prices from online sales, which are known to change far more regularly than shop prices, in its headline statistics.

While the new data will initially be used for research work, over time the "web scraped" online prices will be used when calculating headline inflation indices, such as Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH), to expand the current store-based collections. In addition, ONS is exploring the availability of shop checkout scanner data, which could improve price collection still further.

This new collection method will augment and significantly increase the number of online prices quotes ONS has access to. The prices will be “web scraped” on behalf of ONS by mySupermarket with additional quality assurance of the data undertaken by Kantar TNS, that also currently collect instore prices on behalf of ONS. Both organisations offer significant experience in collecting and processing large consumer datasets.

Commenting on the new contract, Head of Inflation at the ONS, Mike Hardie, said:

“This new technology will allow us to collect more online prices and much quicker than we currently can. The crucial work will help ensure our inflation figures are able to fully reflect fast changing online pricing, ensuring they remain robust in this increasingly digital time.”

Gilad Simhony, CEO of mySupermarket, said:

“mySupermarket are obviously delighted with the decision from ONS to work with us based on our experience and dedication to high quality data collection and analysis.”

Amy Cashman, CEO of Kantar TNS UK, said:

“Kantar TNS is proud to be a primary data collection partner of ONS for the Consumer Prices Index, to which we have contributed since 1994. During this time, we have continuously innovated methods and technologies for data collection – the evaluation of alternative processes such as web scraping is a natural next step on that journey. Our partner mySupermarket is an excellent choice for this innovative work.”

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