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Why UK Banks Don't Tweet 106

Posted by timothy
from the gentlemen-don't-read-one-another's-tweets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Banks in Great Britain are running scared of using social media services like Facebook and Twitter — owing to case law that dates from 1924." That case law "means financial services companies can't publicly identify an individual who has an account with them," so responding to customer inquiries in other than the traditional ways (like post and in-person) could get banks in trouble.
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Why UK Banks Don't Tweet

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  • by satuon (1822492)

    Do US Banks tweet?

    • dont know about US, but Indian banks do, as do Indian telcos

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by davester666 (731373)

        Cuz that's what you want your bank to do. Tweet your name, account number, balance, and any other personal information they may have about you, in response to a tweet from you.

        • by jamesh (87723)

          What's next? Health clinics?

          "Your culture tested positive for facial herpes. No kissing for a bit ok?"

          • by xaxa (988988)

            What's next? Health clinics?

            "Your culture tested positive for facial herpes. No kissing for a bit ok?"

            You've been able to get a result for an STD test by SMS in the UK since 2006-ish.

        • Re:Wait, (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Cimexus (1355033) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @05:04AM (#35548578)

          I'm pretty sure you realise this, but that's not what any company uses Twitter for. They don't reveal personal/account details. But for quick, generic queries, Twitter is an excellent way to do customer service.

          My mobile telephone company uses Twitter and I've used it for asking general questions about plans, prices, availability of new phones etc. They use it to announce new services, or outage notices (e.g. "Having some issues with our towers in location X, should be back to normal by 8am tomorrow!") and things like that. I've had some issues/questions resolved by going down this route in a matter of minutes, as opposed to sitting on their customer service phone line on hold for 30 minutes then finally getting some idiot who doesn't know the answer to your question anyway.

          Plus, you can also use it for customer or account-specific queries as well, provided you already have a ticket number lodged. So lets say you called with a problem the other day and were given a ticket number. You might want to provide them with some updated info, or see what progress has been made with the issue. So you can tweet "hey any news on yet? Ticket #12345". A ticket number is useless to anyone but the company and no personal information gets revealed. My ISP does this and you usually get a reply on Twitter in a matter of minutes.

          Can't see why this kind of thing can't work for banks either (although admittedly the scope of things going 'wrong' at a bank is less: maybe some ATM outages, or general enquiry* about interest rates and accounts etc.)

          ---
          * Why the hell is Chrome underlining enquiry as being misspelt? Argh, 'misspelt' too! FFS! You'd think for a global company which has properly localised versions of all their other products and websites, that Google could put an option for Commonwealth/International English into Chrome, rather than assuming everyone uses US English. Worse than bloody Microsoft!

          • by umghhh (965931)
            I work in telecom for quite some years now and the outages are not as common in industrialized world. Perhaps you live in non-industrialized one?
            • by Cimexus (1355033)

              Outages was one example. Not the most common one but the first thing that sprung to mind that people would find useful to know. I live in Australia which is most definitely industrialised, but floods and storms etc. happen and can cause short term disruption to phone networks as I'm sure you are aware!

              Snarky little comment too: do you really think a telco in the non-industrialised world would use ~Twitter~ of all things?

              • by dkf (304284)

                Snarky little comment too: do you really think a telco in the non-industrialised world would use ~Twitter~ of all things?

                Why not? They're apparently skipping over some of the intervening steps in technological development (e.g., going straight to wireless telecoms because it means less cost with rolling out copper cables/fiber).

            • by Unkyjar (1148699)

              Maybe you don't work in customer service then, where you get the outage complaints directly? Or you don't work for Comcast, Time Warner or Cablevision. The first being a problem for me here in Houston, and the other two having many annoying outage periods when I lived in NYC.
               

          • by LazyBoot (756150)

            Why the hell is Chrome underlining enquiry as being misspelt? Argh, 'misspelt' too! FFS! You'd think for a global company which has properly localised versions of all their other products and websites, that Google could put an option for Commonwealth/International English into Chrome, rather than assuming everyone uses US English. Worse than bloody Microsoft!

            You need to look harder... I'm currently using "English (United Kingdom)" and have been for quite a while.

            • by Cimexus (1355033)

              Ok I had to Google it but I found the setting. I swear I've looked through Chrome's options dozens of times and never seen it! > Thanks for the heads up.

          • by kwark (512736)

            What makes twitter different from email in these "personal" communication examples? Other than the obvious 140chars limit.

            • by Cimexus (1355033)

              For company -> consumer directions, it's more like a broadcast. By acknowledging a problem up front (or answering a question that many people may have) in a public forum such as Twitter, it potentially saves many, many extra calls/emails to customer service.

              For consumer -> company direction there's no real difference, other than if someone else is having the same issue they can see your communication (and the response), and potentially avoid having to contact the company themselves. Plus it seems to b

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        If we don't have a law like that, we should. It would be illegal under HIPPA for a doctor to tweet like that. Look, guys, there's no reason whatever for a bank to use social networking. Email, sure, but not facebook. They're different tools for different purposes. You don't use a butter knife to tighten a screw if you have a screwdriver handy.

        • by Cederic (9623)

          Look, guys, there's no reason whatever for a bank to use social networking. Email, sure, but not facebook.

          The irony being TFA telling us that the bank _is_ using Facebook.

          Just not for individual account servicing activities.

        • Doctors can tweet in general, but they just shouldn't be publicly replying to patients about their test results via Twitter etc..

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Some Canadian Banks do, like ING Direct http://twitter.com/superstarsaver

  • Banks in the USA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by prakslash (681585) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @02:50AM (#35548170)

    In case you are wondering what kind of 'twittering' banks engage in, here is a sample [banktwitter.com] from some banks in the USA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I can't believe that this is what the world has come to. "What time does the bank close?" "I don't know, you should tweet them to find out!" (http://www.banktwitter.com/banks/Bank-of-America)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cimexus (1355033)

        It's nice being able to get customer-service answers from all the companies I deal with in a single place. And also to follow all those companies so that you can get all news that might be relevant to you, from any company, in one place. That's basically how I use Twitter: like some kind of glorified RSS feed that has the added advantage of being two-way when required. Noone really follows me (since I don't tweet), but I follow plenty of news sites/companies/etc.

        For simple queries where you need a quick res

        • by JamesP (688957)

          It's also a way to vent insatisfaction with a bank service (usually internet banking) or other kinds of complaint.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Why is twitter faster? If they're too busy to answer the phone, and too busy to respond to email, then it's guaranteed that they don't have the time to engage in frivolous tweeting.

          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            Don't know why, but it always is much faster in the times I've used it (compared to dealing with the same company via other means). I agree that this ~shouldn't~ actually be happening this way. But it seems to be the reality.

            Some possible explanations:

            - Because it's informal, it might not have the same issue tracking requirements etc. as other means. Thus being quicker and more likely for a customer service rep to take the 5 seconds required to answer it; or

            - It's handled by a different team, and because on

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20, 2011 @03:45AM (#35548330)

      Idiocracy was not supposed to be a manual.
      If they want instant messaging it should be done on their website and nowhere else.

    • Re:Banks in the USA (Score:4, Informative)

      by StoatBringer (552938) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @06:31AM (#35548862)

      "Text banking custs, if u lose ur mobile device or chng ur mobile # update ur profile"

      Well, time to change bank to one that can spell "you".

      • by EricX2 (670266)

        Banks have the same character limit as regular users, plus if they are talking to 'text banking custs' don't you think hey should talk the same language?

        • The tweet in question:

          Signing off 4 weekend. Text banking custs, if u lose ur mobile device or chng ur mobile # update ur profile @ mobile.wellsfargo.com #WFCtips

          (140 characters by @Ask_WellsFargo)

          What it would be if they didn't decide to cram two completely separate messages in under the character limit:

          Text banking customers: if you lose your mobile device or change your mobile number, update your profile at mobile.wellsfargo.com #WFCtips

          (138)

          Signing off for the weekend, insert some nonsense about getting back to them monday here, etc, etc.

          Twitter is an exercise in brevity, to be sure, but this is a bank. I'm sure they pay the man enough that he can hit "Post" twice.

    • None of the tweets to more than 2 levels deep.

      Its like they take the tweeter into a back room somewhere ... and strangle him.

      But that what they want.

      They opened all of those Twitter accounts in order to shut people up.

      They leave one "gardian" service rep on a bunch of accounts and when a tweet comes in, their job is to detract, distract, defer, refer and destroy the evidence.

  • Did you know that Yeti has the biggest carbon footprint?

    • Only when the North American variety isn't taken into account. I've seen pictures of its carbon footprint.

  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @03:07AM (#35548222)
    Here I was hoping the reason would be "Because it's fucking retarded, and the executives of UK banks have brains." Oh well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865)

      Agreed. How about just answering the phone when I call in for help?

      I have had great experiences with support persons at my bank. They answer the phone reasonably swiftly and are very polite when we talk and they always seem to do as much as they can to truly help me instead of just get me off the phone. Put more effort into that and less into playing with the latest darling technology of the hipsteratti.

    • Some people post stupid questions out loud on Twitter. They expect one of their friends to help them use google, so companies are more and more joining twitter to do that. Plus, some people honestly believe that the only way to get support is via Twitter because they read an article in their newspaper (the paper one, they don't understand the internet) about Frank Elison from Comcast. Example tweets from the link prakslash posted [slashdot.org] show people asking what time their local BofA branch is open, and someone fr

      • by jimicus (737525)

        (something revolutionary that companies like Burger King and McDonalds have yet to grasp, hours on a website, amazing).

        Most fast food chains are franchised, it's likely that individual branches have a fair degree of autonomy over their opening hours.

        Getting the opening hours from every franchisee and putting them on a website would be relatively easy. Keeping them up to date, however, would be another matter entirely.

  • Good Rule (Score:4, Funny)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @03:13AM (#35548250)

    Actually now that I know of the existence of that rule I kind of like it. There's really no need for a bank to tweet anyway:

    "All this money in my vault is getting itchy now".

    Great bank. Thanks for sharing.

    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      Banks don't have money in their vaults. They have loan agreements in their vaults.
       

      • by pjt33 (739471)

        So wait, all that money people deposit over the counter isn't in a vault? Clearly I should have gone into bank robbery rather than IT.

        • by mbkennel (97636)

          "So wait, all that money people deposit over the counter isn't in a vault? Clearly I should have gone into banking rather than IT."

          fixed that for you. -

        • For one thing, most money in circulation isn't currency; it's numbers in a bank account. (See various definitions of the money supply [wikipedia.org].) For another, most of what people deposit over the counter is money only by fiat; it's a loan agreement guaranteed by the United States Government. At least gold has another use, namely to gold-plate an electrical connector or a piece of jewelry.
  • Yay Slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20, 2011 @03:23AM (#35548278)

    Why do I click on my bookmark for Slashdot anymore? What is it up to now, 50% stupid? I know the origination is the article...but come on guys, lets cover intelligent ones vs. nonsense.

    • I know the origination is the article

      origin (noun)

      originate (verb form of origin)

      Origination (noun form of originate)

      Next up: originationate (verb form of origination)....

  • thankfully not! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ushere (1015833) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @03:24AM (#35548282)
    i really don't need my bank, and especially its staff wasting time 'socialising' - that time could be better spent either improving their service or paying additional bonuses to their ceo's....
  • If UK folk are wondering, yes, banks in other countries do use Twitter to engage with their customers. In Australia the big-4 banks actively use Twitter and compete for followers - http://www.news.com.au/business/cba-westpac-anz-nab-compete-for-facebook-fans-twitter-followers/story-e6frfm1i-1226015116016 [news.com.au]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why do several tweets from different banks on http://www.banktwitter.com/ all start off with "Signing off 4 the weekend"? Are they copying and pasting off each other?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20, 2011 @04:30AM (#35548468)

    If they have any sense the UK bankers are not tweeting so we are not reminded about their thieving asses. If the UK public remember the bankers exist and remember how they bankrupted the public purse for private gain, the UK populace just might start acting like the Libyan populace and rebelling. Who here wouldn't cheer the lynching of the bankers?

    The UK has a lot of anger, a lot of lamp-posts and plenty of rope. I wouldnt be at all suprised if the security types at the big banks advice is: Keep a low profile if you want to keep spending that stolen bonus on anything other than bodyguards.

    • by Joe Jay Bee (1151309) <jbsouthsea@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday March 20, 2011 @06:34AM (#35548872)

      You do realise that when the banks are sold again by UKFI, the Treasury (and by extension the "public purse") stands to make a huge profit by the simple act of buying the shares low and selling them high, right?

      You also do realise that most banks are private institutions who have received no government support (and so can spend their "stolen" bonus money however they damn well like it), don't you? And that at the end of the day their money has been legitimately earned through perfectly legal business activities? You think they charge too much - fine, but they have every right to do so.

      The "bankers" didn't "bankrupt the public purse". That's a facile (and depressingly common) point of view, and one that happens to be almost entirely incorrect.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Idiot.

        The entire banking system has benefited by a massive cash injection into the economy from the public purse. Money which unlike the direct support for the likes of RBS, we will never get back.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The entire banking system has benefitted, but so has car retailers and funeral homes. Should they reimburse the government as well? Clueless fucking retard.

          • by mbkennel (97636)

            Can the car retailers and funeral homes borrow virtually unlimited quantities of money from the government at nearly zero interest rates?

            The banking industry has a legal monopoly on the creation of money.

            They can do this: Person or corporation X gets a loan. Banks increases an accumulator in a bank account, and puts a corresponding money owed in their database. Person X can withdraw money and use it for real world stuff and convince people to do things they want. Money, which is enforced by the governme

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Last I checked Northern Rock was nationalized by the government and taken into state ownership. But I suppose they can still spend their "stolen" £13m bonus money however they damn well like.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        if you or I received a 0% interest rate loan from an uncle then the IRS would call that "income".

        so how can you claim that banks who received 0% loans from uncle sam, received no government support?

      • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @10:01AM (#35549918)

        You also do realise that most banks are private institutions who have received no government support (and so can spend their "stolen" bonus money however they damn well like it), don't you?

        Lloyds TSB was pushed into taking on HBOS, which was insolvent, and as a result had to go cap in hand to the government. Lloyds own Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Cheltenham and Gloucester and Birmingham Midshires.

        Royal Bank of Scotland - who also own Natwest and Ulster Bank - also took a huge bailout.

        They may not be an outright majority of banks - they may not even have more than 50% of the UK retail banking market - but to talk it down like "most banks... have received no government support" is to vastly understate the size of the bailout.

      • by joss (1346)

        > The "bankers" didn't "bankrupt the public purse".

        The banks came to the brink of destroying the entire global economy. The bailouts saved the entire banking industry, as they were all ludicrously over-leveraged. Without the bailout they would have fallen like dominoes as they all had assets with each other. You're right.. they are private institutions and should not be allowed to be in this position. Any bank which is too big to fail needs to be split up.

        Public anger against the banks has barely begun a

      • You also do realise that most banks are private institutions who have received no government support

        You do realise that you're talking utter crap, don't you?

        All the banks are supported by the government guarantee which essentially insures a large amount of the money held for the customers in case the bank goes bust.

  • by benjymous (69893)

    I'd have thought that it's the customer publicly identifying themselves when they send a Twitter message to the bank in the first place.

  • UK Banks do Tweet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland use Twitter as a means of customer service.

    http://twitter.com/lloydstsbonline
    http://twitter.com/Halifax_Online
    http://twitter.com/bankofscot_help

  • by yuhong (1378501) <yuhongbao_386NO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Sunday March 20, 2011 @04:58AM (#35548564) Homepage

    In the US, I wished that the SEC would allow tweeting material info to meet the requirements of Reg FD.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @05:20AM (#35548624)
    Banks couldn't fit their required legal content (regulatory bodies, contact info, privacy statement and all the rest) in a tweet, let alone make any meaningful response. Likewise a customer with a complaint couldn't say much more than "you took my money".

    Things like this need an audit trail. They need proper recording and most of all they need credibility. Tweeting (and FB, for that matter) don't offer any of these. They're fine for children to fantasise about who they luuuuuuuuuuuv that week (or hour) but for real-world applications they are worthless.

    Even if banks did tweet I can't see any customers with an ounce of sense using the facility. Who'd put their account data in such an unsecured and unvalidated form?

    • Banks couldn't fit their required legal content [...] in a tweet

      There are a lot of things that don't fit in a tweet, that's why people use URL-shortening services and include links.

      • by praxis (19962)

        I thought the whole point of Twitter was for short messages. If one is going to store the payload elsewhere and only reference it in the tweet, there might be a better choice of medium.

  • Here is the Twitter account of Lloyds TSB (A British Bank) https://twitter.com/LloydsTSBOnline/ [twitter.com] - it does seem to be the only one though.
    • They might legally be in the clear, since no account information is exchanged. Someone with an account and someone without an account can equally ask for and get generic troubleshooting advice, so their response doesn't confirm the individual actually has an account.

      Though the "Send your (phone) number via Direct Message" (which came up in one recent public tweet) sounds concerning. Third-party communication systems shouldn't be assumed private (which is also why I wouldn't communicate with my bank via emai

  • What possible value could using these various forms of social media have to the bank or their customers? Not value to the likes of Zuckerberg and his ilk.

    I can see a few cases where a bank might tweet their current mortgage or credit card rates to a group of interested subscribers. But beyond that, I can see no value in giving third parties information on my financial transactions. Or even the existence of a relationship between myself and some institution.

    Twitter, Facebook, and other similar services are

  • This article can't have been made in seriousness... come on... are we really arguing about whether it's a good idea to bank using twitter? We must be caught up in a bet Slashdot editors made late last night after several rounds of some substance.
  • so responding to customer inquiries in other than the traditional ways (like post and in-person) could get banks in trouble.

    And nothing of value was lost.

  • If you don't want a public answer, why ask a public question?

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