Some 2.6 million people in the Netherlands are struggling with making digital payments and other online banking affairs, the Dutch central bank said on Monday.
While most people can manage their everyday payments in shops, they are less autonomous when it comes to infrequent actions such as opening a bank account or blocking a debit card, the central bank said.
Banks are closing an increasing number of branches and more and more transactions are being moved online.
‘While banks acknowledge the problem and provide additional support, they can do more to keep the payment system accessible to all,’ the central bank said.
The bank’s research shows that one in six Dutch adults get help to manage their financial affairs because they do not understand complicated language and instructions, have difficulty remembering codes or experience stress when performing actions under time pressure.
Of them, roughly 400,000 Dutch people aged 18 and above rely exclusively on others for things like paying their bills.
‘These people, most of whom are elderly or have a low level of education, are entirely dependent on their partner or another family member for their banking business as a result of digitalisation,’ the bank said. ‘They report feelings such as shame, helplessness, inferiority or sadness. Some have difficulty accepting they are forced to rely on others.’
For example, ATMs are too high for people in wheelchairs or mobility scooters, meaning they cannot reach the keys. In addition, people who are poor readers sometimes cannot read fast enough and get anxious when there are people queuing behind them.
The disappearance of ATMs and the closure of bank branches providing cash withdrawals are also often cited as obstacles to banking independence, the report said.
Reliance on mobile phone apps is also a problem for people with reading or sight problems, or mobility issues.
‘The screen on a phone is much too small to read things properly, and the keys are too small to get everything right at once,’ one respondent said. ‘Before you know it, something goes wrong and, if you’re unlucky, you lose your money. My hands don’t work well anymore because of rheumatism. I have enough difficulty sending a WhatsApp message, let alone entering numbers to do my banking.’
Banks have come up with different forms of support including face-to-face home assistance or group classes in handling the digital payments environment.
They have also developed special aids for visually impaired customers such as talking login devices with large keys. The same applies to applications for speech and voice recognition for people do not read well, who are blind or (severely) visually impaired and people with limited hand function.
Nevertheless, there is an ‘urgent need for better information’ about what is available, the central bank said.
‘It is very important that banks maintain physical contact points where customers can interact with bank employees and that customers can still easily contact their bank by telephone instead of having to communicate with a chatbot,’ the central bank said.
‘Personal telephone customer service is essential: people want to speak directly to a bank employee instead of talking to a call centre employee through a menu of options.’
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