Privacy Commission Warns On Coles’ Flybuys & Woolies’ Rewards Programs

Privacy Commission Warns On Coles’ Flybuys & Woolies’ Rewards Programs

The Australian Privacy Commission has today released two privacy assessment reports on the loyalty programs of Australia’s two largest supermarket retailers, Coles and Woolworths.

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Retail loyalty programs are increasing in popularity with consumers and businesses alike, with 88 per cent of Australians now a member of a loyalty program. These programs operate by rewarding shoppers for purchases and in return retailers collect data about individual buying habits.

The Commissioner’s assessments focused on whether the personal information collected through Australia’s two largest loyalty programs was handled transparently, and in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988.

“We undertook the privacy assessments to check-up on Australia’s leading retail loyalty programs and to ensure customers’ personal information was being handled in accordance with the Privacy Act,” said Timothy Pilgrim, the commissioner of The Australian Privacy Commission 

“While it’s encouraging to see that Coles’ flybuys and Woolworths Rewards each had appropriate privacy notices that were consistent with their practices, it’s important that all Australians understand the bargain we strike with a retailer when we join a loyalty program.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free flight. The data that loyalty programs collect is valuable, and personal. So in this case, there is a price for the rewards from these programs.

“The details collected in these programs might seem insignificant on their own but when merged together they can paint a picture of who we are, what we do and how we behave. This information is worth a lot to organisations. So it’s important that we understand the terms of the programs we join — especially what privacy protections they include.

“I’d ask Australians to think about how many loyalty cards they have right now, and ask themselves if they know what can happen to the personal information they have handed over to get the card. A way of knowing this is to read privacy policies before signing up so you can make an informed decision about what will happen to your personal information.’

Following the assessment of Coles and Woolworths, the OAIC will be assessing some of Australia’s other popular loyalty programs in the coming year.

For the full report on Coles’ flybuys click here.

For the full report on Woolworth’s Rewards click here.