Consumer Scores and Price Discrimination
Most American consumers likely are familiar with credit scores, as every lender in the United States uses them to evaluate credit risk. But the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) that many firms use to target ads, prices, products, and service levels to individual consumers may be less familiar, or the Affluence Index that ranks households according to their spending power. These are just a few among a plethora of scores that have emerged recently, consequence of the abundant consumer data that can be gathered online. Such consumer scores use data on age, ethnicity, gender, household income, zip code, and purchases as inputs to create numbers that proxy for consumer characteristics or behaviors that are of interest to firms. Unlike traditional credit scores, however, these scores are not available to consumers. Can a consumer benefit from data collection even if the ensuing scores are eventually used “against” her, for instance, by enabling firms to set individualized prices? Would it help her to know her score? And how would firms try to counteract the consumer’s response?