The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) will for the first time include online prices in its inflation measurement, The Telegraph reported.
Official figures will now consider online costs when calculating inflation and price fluctuations, in a bid to track what the Telegraph called the “Amazon effect.” The ONS did not immediately comment when Business Insider contacted it for clarification on whether Amazon itself would be included.
Around 750,000 prices will be collected each week from 30 different online retailers, covering 80 different kinds of product. If successful after a research period, they will be incorporated into the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation.
“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,” Mike Hardie, assistant deputy director of surveys at the ONS, told The Telegraph.
Inflation measurements, which track the changing cost of goods and services in the economy, have in the past been based only on the price of 700 items sold across 20, 000 UK stores in a virtual shopping basket.
Online comparison website mySupermarket is gathering the data for the ONS using “web scraping” tools, which pull data on pricing from the online retailers. Hardie said: “This new technology will allow us to collect more online prices and much more quickly than we currently can. ”
Internet shopping now accounts for over 20% of the UK market and online prices change quicker than those in stores, providing a faster, more responsive measure of fluctuations in the economy, the ONS said.
The change follows others by the ONS to modernise its data gathering and keep pace with the digital economy.
In May, it announced a partnership with credit rating agency Equifax enabling the ONS to get anonymised bank data and track money as it flows through the economy.
This is part of the Flows of Funds Initiative developed by the ONS and Bank of England in the wake of the financial crisis to better track risks in the economy.