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Haggling on your mobile - BBC previews new ECS research

As UK consumers aim to resurrect the ancient art of haggling to get more for their money, researchers in ECS are developing a program that will take on the hard work of negotiating prices down.

The BBC reports today (5 May 2009 - 'I'll give you a tenner for that') that consumers are increasingly hagglng over high-ticket consumer goods and rents, using knowledge of market conditions, including latest price comparisons, to bargain prices down with retailers and letting agencies.

'[M]ostly without realising it, the UK shopper has become more comfortable with haggling by asking stores to match the prices they have found online. Price comparison websites are now part of the armoury for any money-saving consumer,' writes Kevin Peachey, BBC Consumer Affairs Reporter.

But for those who find the whole process too embarrassing to contemplate, they will be relieved to hear that research in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton aims to deliver the haggling capability to their mobile phone.

Professor Nick Jennings, Head of the IAM group (Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia), is developing a computer-based haggling program. The software, with an embedded algorithm, has the ability to adapt to the various bits of information it is fed by suppliers.

After telling the computer what to buy and the maximum price to pay, the consumer can then sit back and let the program investigate suppliers and prices and come back with the goods.

'It won't just try to knock 10 per cent off the price,' Nick told the BBC. 'It will be tough with some and easier with others, as well as taking into account reputation and trust.'

The software is currently in prototype but could be available for mobile phones as early as next year.

Posted by Joyce Lewis on 05 May 2009.