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CMA monitoring social media to improve regulation

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is using software to monitor consumer views on social media, with a view to improving regulation.08 Apr 2016

In a speech at the annual International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) conference on the impact of digital technology, its chief executive Alex Chisholm said that the CMA has recently begun using the software.

The "intelligence tool" is useful for seeing how widespread problems are in different markets, identifying specific issues, and finding out how consumers and other online communities look for information and advice, Chisholm said.

"New technologies can also accelerate the speed from problem identification to resolution," Chisholm said.

The CMA had tried out different approaches to gathering information digitally, he said. This included commissioning real-time qualitative research to track consumer use of online tools, staring discussion threads in forums and taking part in a Twitter 'hashtag' conversation.

"The [Twitter conversation] enabled us to take part in real-time evidence gathering with a group (beauty bloggers) who until then had not engaged with the consultation. This allowed us to engage with a ‘hard to reach’ group by going to them, rather than expecting them to come to us," Chisholm said.

The CMA is also increasing its own use of social media to communicate, he said.

"Last year we launched a campaign to ensure students knew what to look out for when comparing higher education institutions and were aware of their rights as consumers. This was a target audience which would most probably not have heard of the CMA, let alone be following us on Twitter," Chisholm said.

The CMA worked with partners including the Student Loans Company and the National Union of Students on this campaign. 

"Using their established networks and credibility were able to reach a far wider audience than we could have aspired to on our own; indeed, it remains one of our most successful CMA campaigns to date," Chisholm said.