Last month I blogged about how we, the public, often resist change. It might not be within your bubble – you’re reading this online, you’re not the group I’m talking about. Older people as a group might not embrace modern, digital ways of doing things so much perhaps. And in poorer communities, new ideas may be (often rightly) treated with suspicion as designed by the ‘haves’ without much thought about how useful they are to the ‘have nots’.
I was referring to the chatter coming from the FinTech (financial technology) sector as they prepare to transform the banking system. Soon it will be supported by a raft of new Apps and other digital kit to supposedly enable us to manage our money better.
But I wonder… In a couple of years’ time, will they wonder why it was not the success they imagined? Within their bubble, there is nothing but excitement and lots of early adopters ready to download the Apps and start moving their money from pillar to post, wherever the cash will grow.
But in the real world, ‘the fear’ is huge. Scams, rip-offs and poor service are all around.
I am sure I am owed a PPI (Payment Protection Insurance ) refund on an Egg card I took out 20 years ago. I’ve claimed all the rest I was owed but Egg doesn’t exist any more so I figured half of something is better than nothing and registered with a company digging out refunds for people.
I handed over the details they needed to proceed. They called a couple of weeks later and explained they were working on my claim, asking for my date of birth. When they asked for further details I said: “I’m sorry. You rang me. I’m walking along the street. I’m happy to talk to you because I have asked for a PPI claim but, no, you can’t have more personal details.”
They were polite and understanding and said I’d be receiving my letter in the next few days. And I haven’t heard anything more. Now, am I more or less likely to sign up to a newbie tech firm offering the next big thing in managing my finances?
Not only was I ripped off when I was sold PPI, there’s a very real risk of a scam while I try to put it right. If a Quids in! reader was doorstepped by a possible rogue trader I’d recommend they get a landline number or office address, so you can check they’re legit. Can I do that with the PPI firm who advertised through Facebook? Or with an App asking for all the security details to all my accounts, so I can push money around? Well, probably, but not easily, so it’s a ‘no’ from me.
The IT sector has benefited from the ignorance of governments. Digital industries face a shock when they catch up and hold companies to account for customer service and fair trading practice.
A blog from the London School of Economics last month suggested that in the next few years these companies could be in the same trouble as the banks. They are becoming essential to everyday life and they are huge. They think they are independent businesses, free to trade as they see fit but, the blog points out:
“Google, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Uber and Airbnb, have responded with varying degrees of openness to the growing chorus of anger around topics such as (not) paying taxes, labour exploitation, misinformation, fostering propaganda, offence, polarisation, and mental ill-health.”
That list of questions does not even consider the social impact of the world going digital. It does not charge them with making worse another form of exclusion or think about how many are being left behind. They only seem to care about the tech-savvy, the better-off and the under-50s. Like with banking, fair access will only be an issue when the regulators get involved.
New players in the FinTech world think we will part with our contact details and all manner of data without question. They don’t understand trust. And they don’t understand the fear.
But when it comes to chasing our votes, governments do.