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Santander accused of ‘age discrimination’ over mobile security measures

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A customer uses an automated teller machine at a Santander branch in London - Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg Finance LP
A customer uses an automated teller machine at a Santander branch in London - Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg Finance LP

Santander customers have accused the bank of age discrimination after being told they must own a mobile phone to verify certain transactions.

Banking rules require shoppers to verify purchases using passwords sent to their mobile phone or other devices for many online transactions.

Those without a mobile phone can usually use card readers or have a verification message sent to a landline telephone to complete a purchase or send money to another party. Rival banks Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and TSB all allow customers to use other methods to confirm their identity, including receiving a call from the bank, or using a reader.

However, Santander offers none of these alternatives for customers making transactions to new payees. If a customer has no mobile phone, they have to phone the bank or visit a branch every time they want to pay someone new. Santander has 14 million active customers in Britain.

High street banks have been criticised for excessive phone waiting times and bank branches have closed at a record pace.

Charity Age UK said that as digital payment services were now an "essential part" of daily life, banks had an obligation to ensure there was a range of options for customers to use. A report from the charity said two million over-75s

The charity's Caroline Abrahams said: "Just under half of older people don’t use a smartphone and even the most tech-savvy can find themselves cut adrift from their finances if they do not have reliable home internet or mobile coverage."

One customer with the bank, who did not want to be named, said: "It would be very easy for Santander to follow what other banks do because they already use email to provide the one-time passcode to be sent by email for the purpose of accessing the account.

"This is a clear failure of its claim ‘to deliver the highest level of customer service’. Since many older customers do not have a mobile phone, this constitutes age discrimination."

The customer added that he did not want Santander to have his mobile phone number, as he believed using the device to communicate with his bank would leave him at risk of authorised push payment scam calls, which have spiked dramatically over the past year.

A spokesman for Santander said: “Santander provides a range of banking options to support all of our customers regardless of age or any other protected characteristic.

"Where a customer is unable to receive a mobile one-time password, we provide alternatives including email one-time passwords for online banking and shopping. To set up new payees, customers without a mobile can call our dedicated helpline, or visit us in branch."

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