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EDITORIAL Does 2018 end on a note of self-regulation?

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News this week that UK bank Barclays is going to let its customers, via their mobile banking app, set controls and limits on how an what they spend money on offers an interesting alternative view of 2019 that many people haven’t yet considered: the ultimate in self-regulation.

Barclays plan is to let customers set limits on how they spend. So, for example, the customer can tell their own account to start refusing payments in, say, pubs after a £50 total has been reached. It could also apply to simply using the app to help the customer budget properly so that they never overspend. It could even be used to control how someone used premium rate services.

What interested me when the story broke earlier this week was that the best form of regulation when it comes to consumer protection is surely to put that control in their own hands? After all, we are all grown-ups. Having the ability to try and control digitally how money is spent could transform everything from how some people manage addictions to how they budget for their groceries – and everything in between.

But is putting control of their own money into the hands of the people really such as great idea? Much of the talk on the TV news about Barclays’ move revolved around telling you bank account, via your mobile, to limit how much you spend in the pub. But we have all been there haven’t we? Telling your wingman that no matter what you say, you have to refuse to let me get pissed. When did that ever work?

The same will apply to people who binge on PRS – they may start out with a self-imposed cap, but as the going gets good, that soon goes out the window.

Rather than it allowing for less regulation – because the people themselves are in charge – it may well yet lead to even more complaints as people binge anyway despite capping their Barclay spend.

Were this sort of self-imposed monitoring and rebuke did take off it would also have serious implications for the marketing industry. Marketing is predicated on that ‘naughty, but nice’ devil we all carry around with us. “I really shouldn’t, but go on then…” is the impetus behind many a marketing campaign – overtly or otherwise. Making it impossible for people to actually then indulge because of a self-imposed cap is going to lead to many, many lost sales.

And personally I don’t think it could ever work. Rather than being a handy budgeting tool, it is more likely to be a supreme pain in the bum. You may well have set a spending limit of £200, but when your car batter fails and you can’t get home without spending £250 on a new battery and the AA’s call out charges then you are going to rue the day you ever did any budgeting.

Similarly, if you are poised to win big on mobile gaming and ‘computer says no’ – because you told it to – you are going to be mighty peeved.

To combat this, the bank has cannily made it easy for the customer to turn off any limits – thus negating all that it was set up to do, surely – and bringing this editorial, and this year of editorials, to an oddly pointless close.

Its been a great year for the telemedia industry and we look forward to ever more to come next year. So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you – and see you back here in 2019.

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Editor and content creator for Telemedia – for 18 years and counting

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