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Internet Sales to be Included in Inflation Figures

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) are to start including internet sales in their data used to calculate inflation.

Until now around 700 goods and services in more than 20,000 UK stores have been part of the Office for National Statistics? (ONS) effort to calculate inflation. These goods are updated each year to keep up with consumer buying trends.

However, the ONS now plans to keep pace with changing consumer behaviour by including many online price tags.

Around 750,000 prices will be collected each week from 30 different retailers covering 80 different kinds of products as part of an ‘ambitious strategy’ to transform the way the ONS collects and publishes data.

There will be an initial research period, after which the figures on internet shopping will be incorporated into the official Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation.

Internet retailers now account for more than 20pc of the UK market and, according to the ONS, online prices are often volatile, changing more regularly than in high street stores.

The new price information will be gathered in a process known as ‘web scraping’ by price comparison website mySupermarket on behalf of the ONS. Quality control of the process will be carried out by Kantar TNS, the firm which has monitored in-store prices for the official inflation figures since 1994.

A spokesperson for the ONS said: This new technology will allow us to collect more online prices and much more quickly 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.’

The move follows another collaboration with credit ratings agency Equifax announced in May, that has enabled number crunchers to access aggregate and anonymised bank account data, in order to closely watch how money moves through the economy.

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