Blog. Some companies have begun to exploiting that individuals have become transparent due to constant tracking of our online behaviour. They feed us with offers and prices, which are more to their own advantage than their customers’. Tools for digital self-defense help individuals not only with privacy and data control but also ‘bargaining’ better prices.
Recently I needed at place to stay in Tokyo, and via hotels.com (ususally I prefer to buy directly from the hotels, but most here were in Japanese) I found a good double room for 11,000 DKR (€1470) for nine nights. Then I switched to another browser, put my VPN on, location Germany, and found exactly the same hotel for nine nights for just under 9,000 DKR (€1200). I bought immediately and was told in German that I had now booked and paid for our hotel in Tokyo. Here’s the reservation number.
For years we’ve known about “price discrimination“, as many in the EU tend to call it, or “price differentiation”, as many in the US call it. But this was the first time I really experienced it so clear. Thus, digital self-defense – that is tools for privacy – is not just a matter of controlling one’s own data, but also a matter of “negotiating” at better prices.
Websites, who offer digital products and services, often have different prices depending on what they know about us. If you haven’t blocked cookies with a cookie- or adblocker, and then check the website a second or third time, often the price will increase automatically. If you are a loyalty customer, the company’s website knows you very well and can adapt to your wishes and needs – both for your benefit but sometimes even more for the benefit of the company. Whether you’re using a PC or Mac can also affect the price.
The so-called IP addresses – that is, your physical location – are also used to set prices. According to the EU Commission, which has documented price discrimination, it is illegal. But it still happens, which my example clearly shows. At the same time, Brussels Airlines has begun to block users who uses VPN (often of security reasons), so they cannot buy their cheaper flights in countries. Via Twitter Brussels Airlines says they do it for our safety – rather than being honest and say that we should not be able to exploit their price differentials.
When you buy products that are physically delivered to the country you reside in, many sites, including TomTom.com selling fitness trackers, prevent you from buying it at a cheaper price in another country than the delivery address.
How to do it
It is always a good idea to check prices in other countries before purchasing from your own country. You can do it for free via the Norwegian browser Opera. Download it from Opera.com, go into settings and then enter ‘personal data settings’ and scroll down to VPN and activate it. Then try to put it on e.g. Germany and see if you can get cheaper prices. This is often the case, since Germany has much lower VAT than Denmark and other Nordic countries. When you buy a digital product, there’s nothing to stop you from buying from a website that you think your are in Germany.
You can also purchase a VPN-service that you can install on all your gadgets. There are many good services, but I would go for one with its headquarters in Europe. And then you should check which servers they have. For example, if you travel a lot and want to see DR or BBC, then you need to purchase a VPN service with a server in Denmark or the UK. If you live in Denmark and want to access Israeli sites that are location-based, buy a VPN service with servers in Israel.
• F-secure.com (Finnish)
• Ipredator.se (Swedish)
• IBVPN.com (Romanian) many servers
• Earthvpn.com (Cypriot) – many servers