Ways to reduce compulsive spending
From an article by Money and Mental Health
Some time back, I published a blog on Shopper Stopper - an online tool which provided people with the ability to close online shops at times of their choosing. Users who signed up to the tool were able to block specific online shops they found problematic, or limit all online spending during a certain time window.
Since that trial, things have moved on and Money and Mental Health have published an update:
It’s late at night and you can’t sleep. The high streets are deserted and the shops are closed, but online there are an endless number of stores to browse and goods to purchase. This can prove a helpful distraction, but if you have difficulty managing the impulse to shop or understanding the potential impact on your finances, the ability to spend easily online can quickly lead to financial harm.
On the high street, the wait in the queue gives you time to consider whether you can afford a purchase, the shops closing at 6pm puts a time limit on your shopping, and heavy bags serve as a reminder of how much you’ve bought. But ‘one-click’ purchases, shops storing card details for repeated purchases and 24/7 access to stores mean that these barriers just aren’t there to protect people from harm in an online environment.
So they designed and piloted the Shopper Stopper, an online tool which provided people with the ability to close online shops at times of their choosing. Users who signed up to the tool were able to block specific online shops they found problematic, or limit all online spending during a certain time window. When a user tries to access a shopping site outside of these hours the web page is blocked, and the user sees a message to remind themselves why they set it up, suggestions for other things to do instead of shopping and signposting to support with finances and mental health.
Over the nine month period of the trial it was clear there was both an appetite for and interest in these personalisable online tools from consumers. Over 300 users engaged with the Shopper Stopper pilot, and nearly half of the 12 million consumers with mental health problems in the UK say they would like to set controls like spending limits in online shops.
Placing a block between people and sites they found problematic was the first step for many users to gaining greater control of, and confidence in, their financial situation. On 85% of occasions that users tried to visit an online shop outside of its ‘opening hours’ they navigated away from the block page – rather than trying to get around it. In the first couple of months of the trial, more than a quarter of users (26%) clicked through to money advice from the block page.
But the Shopper Stopper has its limitations. It can be uninstalled, will only ever reach a fraction of consumers, and now that the pilot has ended it is no longer available at all.
Money and Mental Health believe there is a role to be played by online retailers, internet service providers and financial services firms to help build back this control to our online spending environment, and are calling on them to take the following steps to support and protect consumers online:
Allow customers to delay the processing or require second approval of purchases – for example, asking a customer to approve night-time shopping in the morning.
Allow customers to set daily, weekly or monthly spending limits on online retail accounts or payment cards.
Customers should be able to opt out of targeting marketing, block certain types of purchases on their card or freeze payment cards at set times. If required they should also be able to block online retail completely at the level of their internet service provider.
In the more immediate-term, extending the life of the Shopper Stopper would be an effective way of providing support to people struggling with impulse spending. Money and Mental Health would welcome conversations with organisations interested in continuing the Shopper Stopper journey.
They have put together a list of tools that work in a similar way to the Shopper Stopper which you can view here.
Read the full evaluation of the Shopper Stopper pilot here.
Following the publication of the evaluation report, they wrote to the Chief Executives of 32 leading financial services and retail firms to call on them to implement new spending controls.
Could you add your voice to theirs? Could you let people in debt know about these tools?
If you work for a financial service or retail company, why not promote such tools as part of customer care. What a great sign of corporate social responsibility.
Retweet about this article: