Starling Bank has introduced a feature that enables abuse victims to switch off intimidating payment references that can accompany bank transfers.
Payment references are intended to describe the nature of a payment, such as ‘Rent’, ‘Mum’s birthday gift’ or ‘Dinner’. However, customers can also use the transaction description fields to send abusive messages, including threates to domestic abuse victims.
Starling has partnered with the charity Surviving Economic Abuse to launch the feature, which the bank claims is the first of its kind in the UK for Faster Payments.
To use it, customers swipe up from the app home screen to pull up their transaction feed, tap on a payment that’s received with an unwanted reference, and tap the Hide icon. This will hide references from past or future payments made from that account.
Lauren Garrett, financial services manager at Surviving Economic Abuse says: “Economic abuse can continue, increase, or even start long after a victim-survivor has separated from an abuser. Using online bank payment references to send intimidating or malicious messages is just one of the ways an abuser can maintain control from afar, leaving victims feeling helpless and highly vulnerable. This small in-app feature will make a huge difference to survivors’ ability to bank safely."
The issue has been a hot topic in Australia, with NAB, Westpac and Commbank taking action to root out abusive messages in payment refrence fields.