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Egg has rejected criticism from its competitors about the security and privacy implications of a service, which allows its customers to manage all their online accounts from a single Web page.

The account aggregation service, called Egg Money Manager, is promoted as a way for consumers to manage their finances more effectively, but HBOS and the Royal Bank of Scotland have expressed concerns about the idea, according to the FT.

HBOS, the holding company of Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, said it has not given permission for its customers data to be used, the paper reports.

Egg says these criticisms are commercially driven and show that its competitors misunderstand the service. Egg argues that it has thought through the security and privacy implications.

Andy Thompson, director of new product development at Egg, told us the company took legal advice on Data Protection prior to introducing the service, which goes live next week. It has also carried out a thorough security audit of Egg Money Manager and worked with banking clearing house APACS on making sure it was secure, he added.

At launch, accounts at 18 banking and credit card companies will be available through the service.

To boost consumer confidence, Egg is offering a guarantee covering monetary loss for all accounts accessed through the service in the unlikely event of third-party fraudulent activity.

Egg's model of aggregation stores a customers' personal security details (including those with other banks) encrypted on their own PC. Management software downloaded from Egg (developed by Australian vendor eWise and integrator AccountUnity) lets its customers set up the service, which collects data from Web sites to present users with a single view of their finances. Once users set up Egg Money Manager, they will be spared the hassle of logging on to many different Web sites and able access multiple accounts after a single login to Egg's secure site.

Passwords and account numbers are not held by Egg (it assures us), but it does store the names of institutions and types of accounts - as well their balances - of all the accounts accessed by customers through the free service.

The rationale is to let customers easily set up Egg Money Manager on more than one PC, and to allow Egg - after obtaining customer's permission - the potential to market "better deals on products than they have at other banks", Thompson explained.

Other financial service firms may see this as a commercial threat, but it is only responding to customer demand, Egg argues. Users can opt out of receiving marketing information when they sign up for the service.

Account aggregation services are popular in the States but are rarer in Europe. Research from analysts Datamonitor, however, suggests this will change over the next three years and that 35 million European consumers will be using account aggregation service by 2005. ®

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