Barclays has launched a feature that will let customers turn off payments to certain retailers in a bid to protect the UK’s problem gamblers.
The new tool allows people to block transactions at supermarkets, restaurants, takeaways, bars and petrol stations as well as bookmakers and gambling sites.
Premium rate websites and phone lines can also be blocked by pressing a button on Barclays mobile banking app.
The financial giant is not the first to offer the service – challenger bank Monzo introduced it in the summer in a bid to “prevent financial problems caused by gambling, rather than trying to support people once they’ve already happened”.
But Barclays is the first mainstream bank to make the move, hoping to protect the UK’s 340,000 problem gamblers and 1.7 million people at risk of racking up thousands of pounds in debt and putting them at risk of damaging their mental health.
Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.
Catherine McGrath, managing director at Barclays, said: “We are always looking for new ways to support our customers and make it easier for them to manage their finances. This new control feature is the latest new service that we have introduced in the Barclays Mobile Banking app that aims to give all of our customers a better way to manage their money in a simple, secure and effective way.”
Why friction matters! Barclays joining Monzo and Starling in following @mmhpi research to allow people to block gambling transactions is about far more than just process.
A one min briefing… feel free to share, it's important people understand policy thinking… pic.twitter.com/WLlcpGIvjJ
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) December 11, 2018
The tool was developed in conjunction with advisors from the Money Advice Trust and based on research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
“Technology that meets everyday banking needs, while recognising the challenges many of us face in our lives, is the way forward,” said Chris Fitch, vulnerability lead at the Money Advice Trust. “Giving everyone more control is the key to achieving this – whether this is someone who wants to be less vulnerable to fraud, or a customer who is trying to take charge of their gambling.”
Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, added: “GambleAware welcomes this initiative by Barclays, which we hope will encourage other banks to do the same. There are no limits to stakes and prizes for online gambling, and credit cards are allowed so it is important to make it easier for people to control their spending.”
The new feature is now available to all Barclays debit card customers, and will be rolled out to credit card holders in the near future.
The move has been met with praise from MoneySavingExpert founder and Money and Mental Health chair Martin Lewis.
“Mental health and debt is a marriage made in hell,” he said. “I want to applaud Barclays for being the first major bank to sit up, take note and act. I believe it will make a real difference to people’s lives and I hope the other banks will follow suit.”