Consumer and anti-gambling advocates flagged legal activeness within hours of the product being revealed at the bank’s total-year profit announcement in Brisbane yesterday, as revealed only by brisbanetimes.com.au today. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who stanchly opposes gambling, too spoke out about the account today.
Mr Xenophon said he would follow authorities to defend why the product was approved and he intended to bring up the issue in Senate Estimates the following week. The Win Account, to be started on November 15, will be the beginning of its type in Australia and is based on similar products in New Zealand.
It has few fees and offers an yearly interest rate of 1 per cent, compared to most other savings accounts that bid about 4.5 per cent. Customers will be lured to the Win Account on the probability they can win the $20,000 first prize in a monthly lottery, with an initial total prize pool of $30,000. When a minimum $250 is deposited, each dollar in the account will receive a ticket in the lottery.
But a customer who deposits $1000 into the account stands to lose about $35 per year in interest. Consumer groups GetUp! and Choice, that are already pursuing class action against 12 banks for what it claims are dishonest charges, have mooted similar action against Bank of Queensland.
Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said the account was “irresponsible” and would propel gambling, while GetUp! described it as an “unethical” banking practice. The Salvation Army’s head of difficulty gambling services, Gerard Byrne, said the product was improbable to affect present-day problem gamblers, who largely did not save money. Nonetheless, it would ultimately incite new gamblers.
Mr Liddy said yesterday the bank had created the account because it was ineffective to offer competitive interest rates compared to the large four. He opposed suggestions it would promote gambling. “It’s not gambling. You’re putting your money unharmed in a bank and being eventually rewarded … you’re not putting your money at endangerment at all,” Mr Liddy said. “It’s a special account that will attract to some people and some it won’t. We’re not trying to order to people what they do, people will make that choice. “All our market study and the behaviour of the product in other markets suggests some people will adore it, others won’t touch it.”