August 11, 2008

Britain's top banks have begun charging their mobile banking customers for text messages—typically the equivalent of $5 or $6 a month to subscribe to messages sent by the bank plus 50 cents every time a customer requests information.

Lloyds TSB Bank plc, and HSBC Group, both London-based, are among those now charging their customers for text messages, for example, to alert them that they are about to overdraw or to supply them with mini bank statements, on request.

U.K. sources say there has not been a consumer backlash to the text charges, introduced within the past two months, following the widespread introduction of SMS-based mobile banking in the U.K. about a year ago.

Although U.S. banks are wondering how they can make money from mobile banking, sources here consider it unlikely that they will be able to follow the U.K.'s suit and charge consumers for text messages. Emmett Higdon a senior analyst with Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., says it's too late now for domestic banks to change their approach. "In the U.S. we've already positioned that as a free service to the customer," he told BS&T.

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