Alcohol Purchase Restriction Feature

As a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for many years, I think the gambling restriction function in Monzo is an excellent excellent idea.

Why should not an alcohol purchase restriction function not be added to the app? Once added and activated it cannot be undone. This would be of tremendous benefit to alcoholics. Yes, of course they may Find another way, but it least it puts it there in their consciousness in the same way that the gambling restriction does.

Alcoholism is a very serious disease, and Monzo is becoming one of the most popular banks in the UK. Having this function could be of tremendous benefit, and could in fact save lives.

My question is whether or not this idea has already been floated by the technical & executive Monzo team?

Also, having worked as an operations manager within an investment bank for over a decade, and with the problem which I was happy to disclose here, this would be something which I would be honoured and privileged to be involved in if it is something which Monzo thinks is worth going ahead with.

I would welcome any comments from the community and from Monzo itself regarding this idea which struck me only the other day. Thoughts folks?

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I think the issue is that you could exclude alcohol retailers specifically (Bargain Booze I guess), but if you were to buy alcohol from a supermarket or even a corner shop, there’s nothing there for Monzo to identify your purchase and prevent it.

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Gambling is easy to block because they can block by merchant category.

Alcohol is harder to block because they can’t block in the same way.

As @tbutz says, because supermarkets sell alcohol as well as all the non-alcohol things you need, it’s going to be very difficult to recognise this properly.

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I think that as the technology improves, they will be able to identify it. The barcodes on any item are all registered. Monzo could accumulate from that database thus preventing any attempted alcohol purchases from being allowed to be processed. There would be other methods available as well

It would be a challenge for the technical team… There is no doubt about that. But the benefits could be enormous.

The technical issue is that, when you pay with your card Monzo has a tiny amount of time to authorise or not.

I suspect you would need the process to change so that the content of the purchase (i.e. itemised list) is sent to Monzo prior to the actual payment processing being performed, and that would be a fundamental shift in the way things operate.

Edit: Also, retailers would not want to give up that info. They are very protective of their data.

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That would rely on retailers sharing individual items bought with Monzo in the nanoseconds it takes to authorise a transaction

Would retailers want to sign up to something that will reduce their sales and then develop the capacity to send that data to Monzo in real time?

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Having worked in part of an organisation that deals with Barcodes and sharing that with retailers;

shudder

Just getting the right data to Tesco/Sainsbury/Other major retailers are available accurately enough is a big enough problem, let alone that being useful for making authorisation decisions on.

The way Retailers currently handle that type of data as well would be difficult to manage; the categories of “products with alcohol in them” and “alcoholic beverage” are not neccesarily mutually exclusive, at least in the way Retailers collect product info, and so you’d get a lot of false positives / negatives in your set.

And if the problem is overcome by walking 20m to the nearest corner shop that doesn’t use an epos system… It seems like it wouldn’t be foolproof enough to be a valuable system.

Also the other side of it, with the rise of Big Data and schemes like Nectar, I think that the big retailers would want to monetise that data flow.

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Perhaps this is an area where some retailers could do some innovating, possibly through a collaborative effort with banks, whereby the bank provides the retailer with information, rather than the retailer sharing itemised transactional data with your bank.

You would ask your bank to block spending on alcohol, the bank would then inform the retailer of that at the checkout when you authorise the transaction. If you haven’t asked Monzo to block alcohol purchases, the transaction proceeds as normal. If you have then Monzo could inform the retailer through an automated system that checks the itemised bill, and declining if it includes alcohol.

This way there would be no delays by needing to send the transactional data to Monzo for them to analyse, as that processing will be done on the retailers end of things, so any delays in processing would be unnoticeable, and retailers don’t need to be sharing that information.

Just a thought.

I think the route of supermarkets blocking alcohol purchases with a certain card is a much easier way to implement it and may be the only feasible way to implement it, although Google/apple pay changing card numbers will make it harder.

That or the other way round, where retailers send just a notification that the purchase contains alcohol and Monzo makes payment based on whether that’s authorised or not.

Would be nice if this stopped the need for ID checks too on age restricted items, but I too easy to give your card to someone. Though could require fingerprint if paying by device.

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Ocado could probably already do that and not need to be reliant on info from banks or cards, given that they’re an online super market and you need to be a member to shop.

Perhaps other supermarkets could use their loyalty cards in a similar effort, but that would fall short as you could just not use the loyalty card for purchases containing alcohol.

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Would adding a simple flags to the authorisation request instead of the full shopping list be relatively easy?

So, contains_alcohol contains_gambling(scratch cards etc) and the bank could quickly decline or accept.

Can’t see it working to be fair, I doubt that the major retailers would even want to spend time programming that into their systems, then you have small local corner shops that maybe don’t have an EPOS system so rules those out straight away

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20 Marlboro Red pls m8

you got any ID

left entire wallet including my monzo card to pay in the car

Any country that’s really serious about limiting alcohol consumption puts alcohol in a totally separate space. Think Iceland, North Carolina etc.

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100% THIS.

The idea the OP suggests is a great idea but, as the previous posts illustrate, it’s technically so difficult it verges on not possible.

Now, what if the only place to buy alcohol (outside of a licensed premise) was in an shop that specifically sells only alcohol? Suddenly the idea of blocking access via your bank account becomes easy to implement.

Other countries already do this and anyone who’s been to one will know it works perfectly. It doesn’t stop responsible drinking (it’s a minor inconvenience at worst) and it really helps drive down alcohol abuse.

This would be an incredibly divisive policy so I can’t see any politician seriously pursuing it but my goodness what a difference it would make to the nation!

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I could the big supermarkets, the pub and restaurant chains kicking up such a stink over this that it wouldn’t be done.

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Only workable way would be to allow us to build our own lists of ‘don’t let me shop here’ but, as ever, we’d also need a way to edit that list so it wouldn’t be much of a restriction (a soft block is about all it would do).

Something like that could be used for other addictive habits that people want to break/avoid, but is still largely up to the user and as such, when ‘user’ decides they want ‘addictive item’ then all they do is unblock from their list and… what’s the point?

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I like that idea, and it sounds like the most plausible option in the near term that Monzo could build. A modern supermarket like Ocado that requires the customer to have an account could also build in that feature with more ease if they wanted.

I do like OPs idea too, and technically speaking (at least in theory) it is possible to build, it would just requires a huge collaborative effort, and possibly even overhauling the way we’re used to things in the U.K., without much (financial) incentive for any of the parties involved to build such a system. If it ever gets done, it would be easy to expand it to other addictive substances and goods. Better for us, not necessarily the businesses who would need to build it, so would likely need to be enforced.