HSBC is using a bluetooth server in its busy London branches at Canary Wharf and Regent Street to send unsolicited messages to members of the public in the area.
The practice, often known as 'proximity advertising' uses a server to detect bluetooth capable mobile phones in the area. HSBC is using the server to send phones with the facility activated a message asking users to accept a download. If the user accepts, a marketing message is displayed.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper reports that HSBC hasn't publicly announced its use of the system, but has been trialling it for two months. It is currently advertising one of its investment products and promising to donate to charity for each new account opened.
Over the past few years, many marketing companies have sprung up offering proximity advertising or bluetooth marketing services. Trials have seen consumers targeted in retail shopping high streets and malls, and airports.
While the marketing industry is keen to promote the technology, critics of proximity advertising claim that if users have no option to choose themselves whether to receive a message, it is essentially equivalent to spam.
Defenders of the practice claim that if the initial message is rejected, the server will know not to bother that particular person again. They also say that because the first message asks for permission to download the advertisiment, the practice is not spam.