Direct debit processor drops plans to sell shops user information

The company responsible for processing direct debit (pin) transactions in the Netherlands has dropped plans to sell the information to retailers, Nos television said on Friday morning.

News of the planned sale broke on Thursday but the idea has now been shelved because of protests, Equens said in a statement.

Information about how many times people use different shops and how much they spend will be extremely useful to the retail sector, Equens says.

The company, owned by the three big Dutch banks, had said it would guarantee the anonymity of card users. The organisation has a monopoly on direct debit transactions and processes some 2.2 billion payments a year.

‘We can see the location, the amount, the date and if the card has been used in that shop before,’ manager Dave Rietveld told the broadcaster. ‘But we need to show integrity dealing with the data. The moment we start mucking around with that, our right to exist vanishes.’


MPs from the Liberal democratic D66 raised the issue with ministers, saying the sale of such information should be banned.

‘This trade in Dutch direct debit information is unacceptable,’ MP Gerard Schouw is quoted as saying by the Financieele Dagblad. ‘It is no-one’s business where you shop, what you buy and how much you spend.’

Equens planned to sell the information together with database marketing group EDM. EDM’s managing partner Robert Feltzer told the broadcaster the information will give supermarkets and shops unique information.

‘At the end of the day supermarkets know how many transactions there have been but not how many customers, how often they shop, if they use other branches and what they spend with the competition,’ he said.


Dutch banks ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank own Equens. ABN Amro, in turn owned by the Dutch state, said it wanted guarantees on privacy before it will agree to the plan. Rabobank said it wanted assurances on the legal aspects. ING declined to comment when questioned about the plans by Nos.

SNS Bank, also in Dutch government hands, told website Webwerld it would not cooperate with the plan.

“SNS is a retail bank which offers its customers services and support. Selling details of their transactions for commercial gain is not part of that,’ chairman Ernst-Jan Boers said.

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