UK high street bank Lloyds TSB has come under fire for issuing Visa debit cards to children as young as 11 without seeking parental consent.
Current account holders aged between 11 and 15 have been sent Visa debit cards that can be used to pay for purchases over the Internet. Previously, younger customers could only use their cards to make withdrawals at ATMs and in branches.
But Lloyds TSB has been slammed for the move following reports that the father of a 15 year old boy complained to the bank after his son used the Visa debit card to buy Viagra, cigarettes and a fake ID over the Internet.
In a statement Lloyds TSB says offering customers under 16 Visa cards is in line with "industry practice". The bank also stresses the cards do not let users go overdrawn or make purchases on "Web sites with adult content or gambling sites".
The bank also claims that it involved parents when it initially approached younger customers with the offer of a debit card.
"When we wrote to these customers we involved parents; including parental guides in initial correspondence and when the card arrives. The parent or guardian could request the card wasn't issued or at any time block it immediately if it is mis-used," says the bank's statement.
On its Web site Lloyds TSB actively promotes the benefits of children having a Visa debit card "to pay for things in shops and online".