UBS ‘seducing’ kids with Red Bull

UBS 'seducing' kids with Red Bull
Can-can dancers at the Red Bull Art of Can exhibition, 2005 (Photo: Damien du Toit)
Switzerland’s largest bank is under fire for luring children to open accounts with free drinks of Red Bull and a starting balance of 40 francs ($43).

UBS is offering the inducements to kids as young as 12, who are able to acquire Maestro cards with their savings accounts.

Children were being offered a Red Bull drink in return for throwing a basketball into a net at one promotion by the bank in Basel, the German-language website of 20 Minuten reported on Tuesday.

A 13-year-old was offered another Red Bull in return for signing up for a savings account with UBS, with a Maestro card that allows cash withdrawals from automatic banking machines, according to the report.

Child experts sharply criticized such come-ons for taking unfair advantage of children who are not old enough to make decisions about money matters.

“Seducing children is very problematic,” Piet Westdjik told 20 Minuten.

The risk is that the materialistic thinking of children can be boosted by such inducements and they may be led into a “debt trap,” he indicated.

Agnes Würsch, from Plus Minus, a Basel budget and debt counselling service, told the news website she was outraged by the bank promotion.

UBS is targetting children in an “insidious” way in a bid to sign up new customers, Würsch said.

She said the bank was promoting “indiscriminate behaviour with money” that could lead to a “spiral of debt”.

Samuel Brandner, a spokesman for UBS, said the promotion was initiated by a single office in Basel.

“We do not prey on young people and certainly not on children,” he told 20 Minuten.

Rather, the bank places importance on building relationships with young bank customers and accompanying them in “all phases of life”.

UBS only provides Maestro cards to children from the age of 12 with the consent of their parents.

However, by the age of 15, children are no longer required to have parental approval.

Brandner said the bank is interested in having customers who are sensitized to financial issues and does not want to encourage debt.
Credit Suisse also has a campaign to attract young people through their parents.

A newsletter sent out by the bank in May encouraged parents to let their kids apply for a Maestro card to “allow your child to learn how to deal with money early on”.

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