CAMPAIGNS: Weekly Web Watch - Banking on security to Net custom

Organisation: Egg

Issue: On-line security


Egg hit the headlines recently with media reports of the world's so-called first on-line bank heist, and the revelation that three people had been arrested by the National Crime Squad for allegedly conspiring to defraud the bank.

As an Egg customer and a journalist who writes about the PR industry, the story caught my attention. So when I received an e-mail from Egg entitled 'Important Information' on the same day the story appeared in most of the nationals, I was very impressed with the quick response, and the attempt to allay my concerns as a customer.

Or so I thought. Because the Important Information actually turned out to be a competition, as well as 'great shopping offers and money saving advice' (two concepts not usually associated, it has to be said).

In fact, a quick trawl through the Egg web site uncovers no references to the story whatsoever - the most recent item in the 'news release' section dates from 18 July this year.

The story broke in the Independent, which wrongly said the bank had been the target of hackers. Pema Radha, head of corporate communications at Egg explains that the PR team acted quickly to contact other media, ensuring the real story was printed the next day, that is, certain individuals had applied for multiple credit cards, and run up debts on these, but no customers' accounts were at risk.

Perhaps this message was enough to deal with the 'crisis'. Radha says there wasn't a huge reaction from Egg's customers to the story. 'The feedback has been quite positive: there were only one or two calls to the call centre, and no one cancelled their account,' she claims. Radha attributes this in part to Egg's anti-fraud guarantee (although it is hard to find details of this on the site).

While she agrees the timing of the e-mail was unfortunate, Radha points out that such newsletters are pre-scheduled, and the bank didn't know the story would break the day before. She adds that the bank is 'monitoring the situation', and would consider putting out something to customers via e-mail in the future. As far as putting a news release on the web site, Radha says the bank didn't want to be alarmist.

Breaches in web site security, whether or not they put consumers at risk, are big news at the moment - just ask Powergen and Barclays. And it is widely agreed that the single biggest issue preventing consumers from embracing on-line commerce is security.

With the Egg web site being 'rejuvenated' later this year to accommodate all the services it now offers - banking, shopping and insurance - undoubtedly the company will also now be looking at how it informs its customers of any security issues which may arise in future.

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