Barclays frees up the internet: THE HI-TECH INVESTOR

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The Independent Online
Barclays has become the first high-street bank to offer free access to the internet. The basic package is similar to the free internet access provided by companies such as Dixons' Freeserve and Tesco, although Barclays will not be charging a premium rate for access to its technical helpline.

Barclays' service, run by BT, is open to both bank customers and to clients of Barclays Stockbrokers. Both parts of the bank will be adding new features to their websites in the next few weeks. The stockbroking arm plans to introduce real-time dealing over the net shortly. Barclays' internet banking will be extended to include bill payments and a facility to review direct debits.


House hunting

Estate agents are beginning to wake up to the net. Agency chains and some independents have excellent websites; the challenge for home buyers is finding them.

A new service, Home Directory, is a property "super site", with listings from agents across the country as well as private sales. The service only launched last week, so most of the current property details are in or around London, but Home Directory aims to be a national resource.

The heart of the site is a property search engine. You select the area, price band, type of property and number of rooms, and Home Directory searches its database for suitable homes for sale or to rent. You can save your preferences on the the system and ask to be e-mailed as soon as suitable new homes come on to the site.


Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at