Monday, February 19, 2007

Ministry of Finance comforts the public: paper based bill payment (acceptgiro) will not disappear due to SEPA

Today the Ministry of Finance responded to questions in parliament with respect to the possible disappearance of the acceptgiro from the Dutch payments landscape. The Minister of Finance Zalm (who is scheduled to make place next Thursday for Labour Bos, who didn't win the recent elections but got his party into the government anyhow) explains that there are no bank plans to abolish the acceptgiro. Banks will keep the product alive as long as there is demand. Which should be a comfort to the public.

Reason for MP van der Vlies to ask those questions was that one day a newspaper hinted in its headlines at a possible phasing out of the acceptgiro (paper based bill payment). Yet, if anyone would have cared to read the article itself, that would have made a lot of difference. Because in the original article ABN AMRO chief Mol merely explained that Dutch banks introduced a new digital form of acceptgiro, which essentially would make life easier for customers (who now type in the 16-digit identifier of the acceptgiro in their Internetbanking appliaction). Furthermore he explained that the product would coexist for a long time with the paper based acceptgiro.

Still, the media hype was quite impressive. Anyone now googling for the words 'einde acceptgiro in zicht' will get more than 70 hits describing the wrong news. And perhaps that's the most striking element of this incident. The news was actually no news at all. What would be news (and in fact quite worrying) is the speed and carelessness with which the media reacted when covering this 'hot news'. Apparently everone copy-pasted each other, with hardly anyone taking the time and effort to check the facts.

So that's another incident in the books where media try to please the public by striking the 'those evil-banks do nothing in the interest of the customer'-chord once again. It may be actually quite the opposite, but the endurance of the acceptgiro won't be likely to lead to 70 hits in Google....