Are the Elder Generation being Digitally Discriminated Against? by Phil Butterworth, Partner at Thomas Westcott

Date: 
17 Oct 2016
Details: 

One cannot help noticing over the past few years the inevitable march towards computer and digital based services.
This ranges from Banking, Insurance, Investment, Retail Spending, and many other areas. Indeed over the next few years, we are also going to be faced with the government drive towards "Making Tax Digital" – MTD for short.

Even before this move towards digitalisation, it was often the case that the elder members of our society needed help to access the most competitive deals in all areas. My experience recently has led me to believe that this is, even more, the case now. Whilst many embrace the benefits of the computer age and become avid "grey surfers", many still harbour a fear and inherent mistrust.

The following are some of the areas where there are disadvantages.

Savings accounts

Albeit savings rates are at an all-time low, generally only the best rates can be achieved on internet accounts. People are also faced with the difficulties of customer identification required by financial institutions which more often as not is less difficult if accounts are opened over the internet as it can be done without visiting physical branches to show paper-based identity documents.

Insurance products

The most competitive insurance products are again often available only over the Internet (not only are rates more competitive but also the use of cashback sites significantly reduce the cost of these products). Additionally, quite often, surcharges are made if you wish to speak with someone from the insurance company to buy one of their products.

Stockbroking services

Commission rates for the purchase of stocks and shares and management of the portfolios are significantly lower than dealing with traditional stockbroking services. For instance, normal stockbroking services will charge somewhere in the region of £50 per stock purchased, whereas over the Internet the cost can be as low as £8. The holding of paper share certificates is often met with even further charges when buying or selling.

General Retailing Purchases
Deals and purchases from the likes of Amazon and eBay significantly put non-digital users at a disadvantage.

Taxation
HM Revenue and Customs are determined to move towards a digitally based tax system -MTD- and this will impact on all taxpayers with very few concessions being made to those who cannot use a computer. Huge amounts of funding have been allocated to the project, and coupled with this will be a greater emphasis placed on taxpayer submission with even less help being provided by the “friendly” taxman. Those unfamiliar or unable to submit information digitally could face significant automatic fines.

So, in answer to the question posed, I believe it is a resounding “YES”!

We as accountants are often asked to help clients in these particular areas and it is my firm belief that we can more than help and provide clients with a cost-effective service which helps them tackle these problems. If you need help please contact me at the Bridgwater office or any other partner in our other offices.

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