Personal data: Who benefits from dematerializing receipts? – 07/12/2022 at 09:47


A cashier gives a change and a receipt to a customer on March 20, 2020 in Paris (AFP / Ludovic MARIN)

From 2023, merchants will be prevented from issuing a receipt to their customers unless explicitly requested, in order to preserve the planet, at the risk of replacing them with their digital version, which consumes more personal data.

This measure of the “anti-waste” law, which was voted on in 2020 in France, opens the door wide to new alternatives such as the non-physical ticket.

The stated goal is to protect the environment because a receipt sent via email would reduce waste of paper and water. Even if, according to the GreenIT Group, a dematerialized ticket would release 2 grams more CO2-equivalent into the atmosphere than a printed ticket, because transporting and storing it in a data center consumes a lot of energy.

But implicitly, dematerialized tickets are a new opportunity for “targeting” thanks to the personal data collected, fears Ralph Rogenbock, a lawyer at the European Consumer Center.

In concrete terms, the customer at checkout may be offered to provide his contact details, name, email or even phone number and address to receive a summary of his purchases in his mailbox or on his personal account in each store. In the case of an exchange, or finding a guarantee, no more piles of receipts that change color, he will only have to find them with a few clicks.

It is already offered by many large distributors such as Carrefour or Système U. Moreover, 70% of sales of food brands are already linked to customers identified through the loyalty scheme, according to Jean-Michel Chanavas, general representative of Mercatel, a professional association that specializes in Payment related issues.

– ‘Great deal’ –

Dozens of young companies have found a new niche there, such as Limpidius, Zerosix, Yavin … They offer merchants the possibility to send “demat tickets” (non-physical) to their customers, in connection with the cash register software, and sometimes to design their format.

Anti-waste law is a “great boon” for merchants, and some of these intermediary companies are reassured on their websites. They praise the economic and environmental benefits of these digital tickets, but also their marketing interest, in a “completely barrier-free” way, comments Lionel Mugen, of 60 Million de consommateurs magazine.

The data collected during the transaction allows merchants to enrich their “customer warehouse,” a database to better target their customers.

This new practice is a “genius reason” for professionals to collect people’s email addresses because it will attract “much more people than a loyalty card,” assures Ralph Rogenbock.

Legally, this set of data is legal. The risk is that customer consent is not collected in an explicit manner. For the merchant to use this data for different uses, for example to send advertisements, he must ensure that the customer accepts it in writing, by ticking one by one the boxes corresponding to the different uses of the data.

“This need has been around for a long time,” Jean-Michel Chanavas explains, but these companies “are taking the opportunity of the law to turn to the topic of marketing,” he said.

However, the CNIL is clear: Physicalization of receipts cannot justify “other purposes, notably commercial prospecting,” as the foundation noted in its white paper on data and means of payment published in October 2021.

– Queues at exit –

It remains to be seen how to collect approval without lengthening the queues at checkout. The procedure (oral or written) is still unclear and professionals are still waiting for the executive decree of the anti-waste law.

To avoid this waiting time, the startup Yavin offers brands to recognize customers’ credit cards (“with their consent”), so that in the future they can receive their receipts systematically via email.

Potential competitor Killbills wants to reduce this time further by allowing the purchase statement to be sent directly to the customer banking area, simply via a credit card transaction. “In this case, brands do not collect any contact details from customers and cannot inadvertently contact them,” confirms Syed Ahmed Sheikh Bleib, its co-founder.

In any case, this data, even if anonymised, remains a “gold mine” for analyzing consumer behavior, CNIL attests.

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