Barclays `screenphone' a first

BARCLAYS Bank is to launch the UK's first "screenphone" banking service. The phone, which is being piloted in 10 towns across the UK later this summer, will allow Barclays customers to check balances and past transactions directly. For more complex services, such as paying bills or transferring money between accounts, customers will still need to speak to an operator.

Customers will also be able to use the screenphone to order goods such as wine, tickets and CDs, as well as to view weather reports.

Gordon Rankin, the managing director of personal banking at Barclays, said the screenphone could be rolled out nationwide as early as next year. He also noted the popularity of screenphones in North America, especially Canada, where there are about 120,000 screenphones with banking services.

According to Mr Rankin, Barclays will be able to expand the range of services offered by the screenphone and add further technology. However, Mr Rankin added the bank would be wary of adding too much technology to the phone. "One of the great advantages of screen banking is that it's simple to use," he said. The phone will cost pounds 99, and there will be a pounds 5 monthly service charge.