HSBC plans tiered charges system

HSBC (Midland Bank) plans to charge different prices for its services according to whether customers access them through the telephone, Internet, cash machines or directly from the branch.

This could lead to customers paying more for the same services at branches than they would using telephone or the Internet. At the moment, high street banks have uniform charges and interest rates irrespective of the distribution method.

Last week the bank said it would consider offering better deals to customers using its new interactive banking service when it becomes fully operational next February. A scaled-down version of the service was launched on the Open digital television network this week.

HSBC is to extend the idea of “differential pricing” across its services. UK chief executive Bill Dalton says: “We will look at pricing the interactive channel differently… We are currently looking at differential pricing across all our distribution channels.”

Because telephone and Internet banks are cheaper to operate than branch networks, the new direct entrants have been able to undercut traditional providers in niche markets, primarily through high-interest savings accounts.

This is forcing the traditional players to consider offering preferential terms to their own direct customers.

HSBC also operates a telephone bank, cash machine network and expects to launch an Internet operation next year.

In May Abbey National announced it would impose a £5 charge for customers wanting to pay their bills over the counter, but said they could continue to pay them free by post, telephone, direct debit or cash machine.

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