Financial Institutions – Which Ones Discriminate?

 

Business Banking – Essential for Businesses

Almost all businesses in Australia use business bank accounts and services to operate, including sole traders, who use business bank accounts held separately from their personal bank accounts. Separate business accounts are particularly necessary for sole traders who want to operate an account under a trading name other than their legal name. For example, a self-employed escort whose legal name is Susan Wallis might register a business name using her working name of “Rachel Rivers”. That way when a client pays her using a credit/debit card, the name “Rachel Rivers” appears on the client’s bank statement, instead of “Susan Wallis”.

What is Financial Discrimination?

Financial discrimination occurs when lawfully operating businesses or individuals are refused financial services by banks or other financial service providers.

Financial discrimination is not confined to the sex industry. Some examples of other businesses which face discrimination are firearm retailers, tattoo parlours, vape shops, gold dealers, fossil fuel companies and casinos also experience financial discrimination. The information on this page refers only to financial discrimination as it applies to the sex industry

Financial service providers might not proffer a reason for their refusal to provide services, or they may state that the problem lies with the ‘occupation’, ‘nature of the work’ or ‘industry’ of the individual or business. 

In other instances, vague reasons relating to risk, reputation, human trafficking, money laundering or organised crime might be offered as justification for refusing to provide services. Such justifications rarely withstand scrutiny, and financial service providers are often unable to provide evidence to support their objections. 

A provider may refuse financial services to a sex worker or business by claiming, for example, that money laundering is prevalent in the sex industry and using this as a reason to refuse services. In such cases, the person or business is, in effect, being rejected, not on the basis of the risk they carry as an individual or business (which would normally be the case), but because of the nature of their industry or occupation.

In many parts of Australia some forms of sex work are illegal, resulting in some sex workers and sex industry businesses operating outside the law. Any individuals or enterprises operating illegally are automatically excluded as customers of financial institutions. The financial discrimination we refer to here is that which occurs against those operating lawfully.

How is Banking Policy Relevant to Sex Work Decriminalisation in Victoria?

We are focussing on the discriminatory policies of the banks because these policies relate to sex work decriminalisation and to Victoria’s 2020 Review of Sex Work. 

One of the reasons financial discrimination against individual sex workers is so widespread is that it is permitted by law. Victoria’s anti-discrimination laws do not protect sex workers from such discrimination. 

Sex work decriminalisation movements in Australia are always accompanied by calls for reform to anti-discrimination laws. 

The Victorian government will consider issues of discrimination as part of its 2020 Review to make recommendations for the decriminalisation of sex workThe Review website specifically refers to issues of discrimination:

‘Fiona Patten MP will consider:

  • Workplace safety including health and safety issues and stigma and discrimination against sex workers.’

How sex work laws impact financial discrimination Australia wide

One of the reasons banks cite for choosing to discriminate against sex workers and sex industry businesses is that sex work legislation varies markedly from state to state. This creates complexity for financial providers when assessing the legality or otherwise of a business. In some cases it may be easier for a financial service provider to adopt a blanket policy regarding businesses that are regulated differently in each state. If all states and territories in Australia were to decriminalise sex work, this barrier to equitable treatment of the sex industry would be removed.

Only one state/territory protects sex workers from discrimination in Australia. Find out on our webpage about how to report financial discrimination

What Exactly is Being Refused?

The following financial services can either be rejected upon application, or withdrawn after initially being provided¹:

  • merchant facilities (EFTPOS, AMEX, AfterPay, ZipPay etc.)
  • business loans
  • mortgages on property where the business is located
  • personal loans
  • business debit cards

¹ Bartle, J., Financial Discrimination Against Adults-Only Businesses (October 2017) Eros Association

 

In 2020, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) made a determination that the National Australia Bank operated lawfully when it ceased providing services to a licensed escort agency. The bank said it put in place a policy excluding escort services and brothels due to the higher risk of money laundering and human trafficking

Read AFCA’s Determination

Some financial service providers have made their policies regarding the sex industry public. We applaud this level of transparency, as it enables consumers to make informed decisions when choosing a financial service provider.

So, which financial service providers engage in financial discrimination against lawfully operating sex workers or sex industry businesses?

Disclaimer

Below are three tables listing a number of banks and payment service providers. We are not endorsing, promoting or recommending any of the businesses listed. Our conclusions regarding policies are based on our interpretations only. This is not a complete list of all financial service providers.

Table 1: Policies Known

 

Financial Service Provider

Type

Sex Workers

Brothels and Escort Agencies

Who to contact if you’re unhappy with this

2Checkout

Payment Processor Financial discrimination1 Financial discrimination1 Email contact form
Afterpay Payment Processor Financial discrimination2 Financial discrimination2

info@afterpay.com 

Bank of Queensland Bank Financial discrimination3 No financial discrimination3 customer.relations@boq.com.au
Beyond Bank Bank Financial discrimination4 Financial discrimination4

Email contact form

Braintree Payment Processor Financial discrimination5 Financial discrimination5 auexecutiveescalations@paypal.com
Bank Australia Bank No financial discrimination6 No financial discrimination6
ING Bank Bank Financial discrimination7 No financial discrimination7 customerfeedback@ingdirect.com.au
MeBank Bank No financial discrimination8 No financial discrimination8
Mint Payments Payment Processor Financial discrimination9 Financial discrimination9 support@mintpayments.com

NAB

Bank No financial discrimination10 Financial discrimination10

Catherine Wolthuizen, Customer Advocate

Email form

Financial Service Provider

Type

Sex Workers

Brothels and Escort Agencies

Who to contact if you’re unhappy with this

PayFlow Gateway (part of PayPal) Payment Processor Financial discrimination11 Financial discrimination11 aup@paypal.com
PayPal Payment Processor Financial discrimination12 Financial discrimination12 aup@paypal.com
People’s Choice Credit Union Credit Union No financial discrimination13 No financial discrimination13
Pin Payments Payment Processor Financial discrimination14 Financial discrimination14 Email form
SecurePay Payment Processor Financial discrimination15 Financial discrimination15 onlinepayments@securepay.com.au
Square Payments Payment Processor Financial discrimination16 Financial discrimination16 complaints-au@squareup.com
Stripe Payments Payment Processor Financial discrimination17 Financial discrimination17 info@stripe.com
Tyro Payments Payment Processor Financial discrimination18 Financial discrimination18 cs@tyro.com
Westpac Bank Bank No financial discrimination19 Financial discrimination19 customeradvocate@westpac.com.au
Zeller Payment Processor Financial discrimination20 Financial discrimination20 support@myzeller.com

Key 

Key to Table 1

GreenPolicy of NOT engaging in discrimination against the sex industry 

RedPolicy appears to allow financial discrimination against the sex industry

Notes on Table 1

1. According to 2Checkout’s Prohibited Product List/Acceptable Use Policy on their website:

‘The Prohibited Product List (“PPL”) describes the acceptable use of the services provided to 2Checkout’s users and customers by 2Checkout. 2Checkout may decline, suspend, or terminate your use of 2Checkout’s services in accordance with the PPL. The PPL below outlines several categories of services or products that 2Checkout will not support. Please review this policy and ensure that your business practices, products and services are compliant with this PPL. Please note that 2Checkout has the right to update and modify this PPL at any time without prior notice. The list of Prohibited Products and Services listed below is merely representative, but not exhaustive. In other words, your business practices, products and services may not be approved by 2Checkout regardless of whether they appear below.

By signing up for a 2Checkout account, you agree that you will not use 2Checkout’s services to accept payments for sale of any Prohibited Products.

Prohibited Products List

3. Adult Entertainment (Sexually Oriented)’

https://www.2checkout.com/legal/acceptance/

(accessed 6 May, 2020)

  1. On 12 October 2021, ABC News reported a statement from Afterpay which confirms Afterpay refuses to accept adult industry customers or firearm dealer customers. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-12/debanking-sex-industry-gun-shops/100523118

Although Afterpay is becoming increasingly available in new categories of spend as people turn away from traditional forms of credit, we do not see Afterpay becoming available for adult services and firearms in the foreseeable future.” 

(accessed 22 October, 2021)

3. On 12 January 2022, a staff member from Bank of Queensland told a brothel owner ‘Sorry, we don’t do brothels.’

The Bank doesn’t refer to the sex industry in its terms or conditions

https://www.boq.com.au/important-information/terms-and-conditions

(accessed 13 January, 2022)

However, at 10am on 13 January 2021, a legal brothel owner was enquiring about opening a new business account with the bank. During a phone call with a staff member from the Toorak Branch, the brothel owner was told the staff member would call them back after the staff member checked with the bank manager. On calling back the brothel owner, the staff member said;

‘Sorry, we can’t help you. We don’t do brothels.’

4. Beyond Bank has partnered with an anti-sex work company to delivery EFTPOS services to its business customers. 

Sex workers, being sole traders, are business customers who require EFTPOS facilities to take card payments from their customers. Beyond Bank partners with Tyro Payments to deliver EFTPOS services to its business customers. 

https://www.beyondbank.com.au/community-banking/payment-solutions/merchant-facilities.html

(accessed 27 November, 2021)

Tyro Payments is anti-sex work and openly discriminates against sex workers.

Tyro Payments Terms and Conditions do refer to the sex industry [c] below, and are vague in their references to offensive images and immorality. 

According to Tyro Payments website, the section titled Tyro Terms and Conditions

For EFTPOS Banking Applications approved from 29 October 2015’ clause 12.0 says:

In the course of your use of Tyro eCommerce, there may be certain images made available for use by you (“Gallery Images”). As part of the use of the Gallery Images, you must comply, and will ensure that any third party you allow access to your credentials on Tyro eCommerce complies, with the following terms. The Gallery Images shall not be used:

b. together with pornographic, defamatory, or unlawful content or in such a manner that it infringes upon any third party’s trademark or intellectual property rights;

c. portraying any person depicted therein (a “Model“) in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive, including but not limited to depicting a Model: a) in connection with pornography, “adult videos”, adult entertainment venues, escort services, dating services, or the like; e) engaging in immoral or criminal activities’

https://www.tyro.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Tyro-EFTPOS-Banking-Terms-and-Conditions-091219.pdf

(accessed 27 November, 2021)

5. Braintree is a subsidiary of PayPal. The wording of PayPal’s policy is vague, but may prohibit sex industry businesses. According to PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy clause 2(i) on their website:

‘Prohibited Activities

You may not use the PayPal service for activities that:

2. relate to transactions involving

(i) certain sexually oriented materials or services’

https://www.paypal.com/au/webapps/mpp/ua/acceptableuse-full?locale.x=en_AU

(accessed on 7 May, 2020)

6. Statement provided by Bank Australia on 27 May, 2020:

‘All customers are treated fairly and undergo the same customer due diligence process whether that be as a private individual or business. We do not discriminate on occupation if the occupation/business is legitimate, is recognised by the government and does not involve anything of a suspicious or criminal nature. Individuals and businesses in the sex industry are assessed on their individual merits, rather than applying blanket decisions based on the industry they belong to.’

7. In May 2022, ING Bank closed the account of a sex worker, without providing a reason.

On 20 May 2022, high profile sex worker Samantha X had her ING Bank account closed, without explanation. Read News.com.au Article, ‘Appalling’: Australian sex worker Samantha X reveals huge banking blow’

The bank’s conduct contrasts sharply with a statement it provided on 25 February 2020:

‘All customers are treated fairly and undergo the same customer due diligence process whether that be as a private individual or business. We do not discriminate on occupation if the occupation/business is legitimate, is recognised by the government and does not involve anything of a suspicious or criminal nature. 

Further to this, we do not provide a transactional account for business purposes and usage of our Orange Everyday account for business purposes would be considered outside of the terms and conditions. 

Please also note that at this current time a number of our products, including our Personal Loan Account and Credit Cards are only available to customers who can provide PAYG pay slips and are not self-employed or can provide proof of a permanent income source such as superannuation.

Full details of our terms and conditions, for each of our products, are available via our website.’ 

8. On 29 April, 2020, a MeBank representative released the following statement: 

‘All customers are treated fairly and undergo the same customer due diligence process whether that be as a private individual or business. We do not discriminate on occupation if the occupation/business is legitimate, is recognised by the government and does not involve anything of a suspicious or criminal nature. Individuals and businesses in the sex industry are assessed on their individual merits, rather than applying blanket decisions based on the industry they belong to.’

9. Mint Payments has a formal business relationship with the payment processor company Stripe, and Stripe does discriminate against the sex industry.

Although we could not locate any policy which discriminates against the sex industry in Mint Payment’s Terms and ConditionsMint has a formal business relationship with Stripe where Stripe is an acquirer of Mint. This means Mint customers must comply with and meet the requirements of Stripe’s Restricted Businesses — Australia requirements. Stripe’s ‘Restricted Businesses—Australia (Last updated: January 29, 2021)’ says:

‘The following categories of businesses and business practices are restricted from using the Stripe Service (“Restricted Businesses”). Restricted Business categories may be imposed through Network Rules or the requirements of our Financial Services Providers. In certain cases, businesses listed below may be eligible for processing with explicit prior approval from Stripe…….By registering with us, you are confirming that you will not use the Service to accept payments in connection with the following businesses, business activities, or business practices, unless you have received prior written approval from Stripe.

Under a heading in the document titled ‘IP Infringement, regulated or illegal products and services’, Stripe refers to various types of businesses and business activities which they classify as Restricted: 

‘Regulated or illegal products or services

-age restricted goods or services;

-products and services with varying legal status on a state-by-state basis’

Sex industry businesses are evidently classified as Restricted Businesses, as they are involved with age restricted services and are regulated with varying legal statuses on a state by state basis. And obviously, sex industry businesses are covered by the following Restricted Business types:

‘Adult content and services

-Pornography and other obscene materials (including literature, imagery and other media); 

-sites offering any sexually-related services such as prostitution, escorts, pay-per view, adult live chat features’

https://stripe.com/au/restricted-businesses

(accessed 3 June 2021)

10. Statement provided by NAB in September, 2019:

‘We absolutely do provide banking services to sex workers as individuals and have no plans to change this policy. However, NAB no longer banks brothels and escort agencies due to different laws and licencing requirements across states and territories. This is a risk based decision we have made to ensure we meet legislative requirements under the anti-money laundering and modern slavery laws.

We encourage customers who work in the sex industry to contact us for more information.’

On 26 October 2020, NAB’s Chief Risk Officer, Sean Dooley, said the bank’s sex industry policy was not about morality but was down to the fact that doing business with sex industry businesses was too risky and too much work: 

‘It is our assessment that we cannot reasonably manage the risks associated with the industry or inform ourselves as to the various risk attributes of operators. As such, our decision, therefore, is not to expose ourselves to risks that cannot be managed.’

https://www.afr.com/companies/financial-services/nab-s-sex-industry-position-an-outlier-20201022-p567m9

NAB is permitted by its Terms and Conditions as they apply to Business Products to close existing accounts for a variety of reasons. NAB’s website, clause 1.14 ‘Closing Your Account’ (which applies to NAB Business Everyday Accounts) states:

‘NAB may exercise its direction to close an account due to unsatisfactory conduct or any other reason it deems appropriate, such as where an account that is designed for use by our business customers is being used for personal purposes. In this event, NAB will provide you notice in writing.’

NAB’s website, clause 2.17 ‘Closing Your Account’ (which applies to NAB Business Cash Maximiser accounts) states:

‘NAB may exercise its direction to close an account due to unsatisfactory conduct or any other reason it deems appropriate, such as where an account that is designed for use by our business customers is being used for personal purposes. In this event, NAB will provide you notice in writing.’

https://www.nab.com.au/business/tools/forms-and-documents/nab-business-products

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

11. PayFlow Gateway is a subsidiary of PayPal. The wording of PayPal’s policy is vague but may prohibit sex industry businesses. PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy, clause 2(i) on their website states:

‘Prohibited Activities

You may not use the PayPal service for activities that:

2. relate to transactions involving

(i) certain sexually oriented materials or services’

https://www.paypal.com/au/webapps/mpp/ua/acceptableuse-full?locale.x=en_AU

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

12. The wording of PayPal’s policy is vague but may prohibit sex industry businesses. PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy, clause 2(i) on their website states:  :

‘Prohibited Activities

You may not use the PayPal service for activities that:

2. relate to transactions involving

(i) certain sexually oriented materials or services’

https://www.paypal.com/au/webapps/mpp/ua/acceptableuse-full?locale.x=en_AU

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

13. Statement provided by People’s Choice Credit Union on 29 May, 2020:

‘Business Banking is not a significant part of our offering or a target segment for People’s Choice Credit Union. Predominantly originating from our personal/individual memberships, we support our Business Banking members through the provision of a small number of business banking products and services. 

People’s Choice Credit Union operates in accordance with all of the legislation and regulations applying in the jurisdictions in which we operate. Provision of our services is in accordance with our Constitution, policies and risk appetite. We do not generally disclose our policies and risk appetite. However, we confirm we do not currently have a specific policy with respect to legal business operators in the sex industry sector

People’s Choice Credit Union is a values-driven, member-owned organisation and has a diverse range of individuals as members. We will continue to assess every application for membership and our services on its merits within the parameters outlined above.’

14. Pin Payments’ website, clause 3.1.2 of their Terms and Conditions states:

‘Restricted Business Types

3.1 Compliance with Card Scheme Rules restricts Us from accepting applications or providing Payment Services to businesses offering the following:

3.1.2 Pornography or adult services’

https://pinpayments.com/terms

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

15. SecurePay’s Online Payments Services Agreement states that SecurePay is linked to both Australia Post and the National Australia Bank (NAB). Clause 2(a) states that:

‘Under these Terms and Conditions, Australia Post provides to You:

a) access to the Card Acquiring Services (with NAB as acquiring bank and provider of those services)’

Clause 3.1(a) states that:

‘3.1 You acknowledge that:

a) the operation of these Terms and Conditions is conditional on Australia Post and NAB approving an application to provide the Services to You;’

In addition to this, on 27 May, 2020, a SecurePay representative provided the following clarifying statement:

As part of the Tri-Partied Agreement between a merchant, SecurePay and NAB, SecurePay must abide by policy issued by NAB.

In abiding by NAB’s Risk Appetite for Third Party Agents, SecurePay is restricted from offering merchant services to the two industries you have listed.’

https://www.securepay.com.au/terms-and-conditions/

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

16. According to the Square Payment website, section 3 (Unsupported Industries) of Square’s Payment Terms states:

‘You may not use the Payment Services for the following businesses or business activities: 

3(20) adult entertainment oriented products or services (in any medium, including internet, telephone, or printed material);

3(25) escort services’

https://squareup.com/au/en/legal/general/payment

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

17. According to Stripe Payment’s website, the section titled ‘Restricted Businesses—Australia (Last updated: January 29, 2021)’ says:

‘The following categories of businesses and business practices are restricted from using the Stripe Service (“Restricted Businesses”). Restricted Business categories may be imposed through Network Rules or the requirements of our Financial Services Providers. In certain cases, businesses listed below may be eligible for processing with explicit prior approval from Stripe…….The types of businesses listed in the right column are representative, but not exhaustive……’

Under a heading in the document titled ‘IP Infringement, regulated or illegal products and services’, Stripe refers to various types of businesses and business activities which they classify as Restricted: 

‘Regulated or illegal products or services

-age restricted goods or services;

-products and services with varying legal status on a state-by-state basis’

Sex industry businesses are evidently classified as Restricted Businesses, as they are involved with age restricted services and are regulated with varying legal statuses on a state by state basis. And obviously sex industry businesses are covered by the following Restricted Business types:

‘Adult content and services

-Pornography and other obscene materials (including literature, imagery and other media); 

-sites offering any sexually-related services such as prostitution, escorts, pay-per view, adult live chat features’

https://stripe.com/au/restricted-businesses

(accessed 3 June, 2021)

18. Westpac Bank refused to provide merchant facilities to a legal brothel, and refused to provide a reason why. 

On 5 January 2022, a legal brothel applied for a merchant facility at Westpac Bank and was refused, with no reason provided. When the brothel owner asked for a reason why, the bank refused to provide any reason. 

The Business Customers’ Disclosure Documents page on the Westpac Bank website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.westpac.com.au/disclosure-documents/wpgc-bus-disclosure-docs/

(accessed 20 January, 2022)

On 26 October 2020, an Australian Financial Review article published an article

https://www.afr.com/companies/financial-services/nab-s-sex-industry-position-an-outlier-20201022-p567m9

containing the following sentence regarding Westpac Bank’s approach to the sex industry:

“Representatives from ANZ, CBA and Westpac said they had no such policies regarding the legal sex industry and provided services to business customers on a case-by-case basis.”



19. Tyro Payments Terms and Conditions do refer to the sex industry [c] below, and are vague in their references to offensive images and immorality. 

According to Tyro Payments website, the section titled ‘Tyro Terms and Conditions For EFTPOS Banking Applications approved from 29 October 2015’ clause 12.0 says:

In the course of your use of Tyro eCommerce, there may be certain images made available for use by you (“Gallery Images”). As part of the use of the Gallery Images, you must comply, and will ensure that any third party you allow access to your credentials on Tyro eCommerce complies, with the following terms. The Gallery Images shall not be used:

b. together with pornographic, defamatory, or unlawful content or in such a manner that it infringes upon any third party’s trademark or intellectual property rights;

c. portraying any person depicted therein (a “Model“) in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive, including but not limited to depicting a Model: a) in connection with pornography, “adult videos”, adult entertainment venues, escort services, dating services, or the like; e) engaging in immoral or criminal activities’

https://www.tyro.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Tyro-EFTPOS-Banking-Terms-and-Conditions-091219.pdf

(accessed 27 November, 2021)

20. According to Zeller’s website, the page titled ‘Zeller Prohibited Goods and Services’ reads:

To ensure the safety and security of Zeller merchants and customers, there are certain goods and services that we do not permit the sale of…..you agree that you will not accept payments in connection with the following businesses, or business activities;

  • Adult entertainment / escort services 

https://support.myzeller.com/zeller-prohibited-goods-and-services

(accessed 8 January, 2022)

In addition to this, Zeller actively enforces its anti-sex work policy. On 7 January, 2022 the company refused to onboard a new customer, who runs a legal sex industry business in Australia. The company said the decision to exclude the sex industry business was final, and no reason for the exclusion would be provided. An email from Zeller to the sex industry business includes the following quote:

‘While we understand this can be frustrating, our decision is definitive, and final. To ensure the security of our platform, we are not required to disclose the information that led to this decision.’

(extract from email from Zeller to legal sex industry business, dated 7 January, 2022)

You can read a redacted version of the full email here.

Other financial service providers have chosen to not make their policies regarding the sex industry public. This lack of transparency makes it impossible for sex workers and sex industry businesses to make informed decisions when choosing a financial service provider. In the interests of transparency, we call on all financial service providers to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

Table 2: Policies Not Known (lack of transparency)

 

Financial Service Provider

Type Sex Workers Brothels and Escort Agencies Who to contact if you’re unhappy with this

AMP Bank

Bank Policy not available1 Policy not available1 customeradvocate@amp.com.au

ANZ Bank

Bank

Policy not available2

(but discrimination against bitcoin trader)

Policy not available2

(but discrimination against bitcoin trader)

customeradvocate@anz.com
Arab Bank Australia Bank Policy not available3 Policy not available3 customeradvocate@arabbank.com.au

Bank of America

Bank Policy not available4 Policy not available4 contact information

Bank of China

Bank Policy not available5 Policy not available5 customeradvocate.au@bankofchina.com

Bank of Melbourne

Bank Policy not available6 Policy not available6  contact form

Bank of Sydney

Bank Policy not available7 Policy not available7 customeradvocate@banksyd.com.au

Financial Service Provider

Type Sex Workers Brothels and Escort Agencies Who to contact if you’re unhappy with this

Beem It

Payment Processor Policy not available8 Policy not available8 support@beemit.com.au

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Bank Policy not available9 Policy not available9 customeradvocate@bendigoadelaide.com.au

Commonwealth Bank

Bank Policy not available10 Policy not available10 customeradvocate@cba.com.au

eWAY

Payment Processor Policy not available11 Policy not available11 supportheros@eway.com.au

Fat Zebra

Payment Processor Policy not available12 Policy not available12 info@fatzebra.com.au

Greater Bank

Bank Policy not available13 Policy not available13 webenquiry@greater.com.au

Financial Service Provider

Type Sex Workers Brothels and Escort Agencies Who to contact if you’re unhappy with this
Heritage Bank Bank Policy not available14 Policy not available14  info@heritage.com.au
HSBC Bank Policy not available15 Policy not available15 hsbc.customer.advocate@hsbc.com.au
MUFG Bank Bank Policy not available16 Policy not available16 administration@au.mufg.jp
My State Bank Bank Policy not available17 Policy not available17 customeradvocate@mystate.com.au
Rabobank Bank Policy not available18 Policy not available18 customer.advocate@rabobank.com
Suncorp Bank Bank Policy not available19 Policy not available19 SuncorpCorporateResponsibility@suncorp.com.au
United Overseas Bank Bank Policy not available20 Policy not available20 customer.service@uobgroup.com

Financial Service Provider

Type Sex Workers Brothels and Escort Agencies Who to contact if you’re unhappy with this
Worldpay Payment Processor Policy not available21 Policy not available21 getinfo@fisglobal.com
Zip Pay Payment Processor Policy not available22 Policy not available22 hello@care.zip.co

Key

Key to Table 2

Orange Financial service provider either has no policy in relation to provision of financial services to the sex industry, or their policy is not publicly available.

Notes on Table 2

  1. None of the following pages on the AMP website make any reference to the sex industry

Corporate Sustainability

https://corporate.amp.com.au/about-amp/corporate-sustainability

(accessed 23 July, 2020)

2019 Sustainability Report

https://corporate.amp.com.au/content/dam/corporate/shareholdercentre/files/reports/2020/MAR/200323_2019_sustainability_report.pdf

(accessed 23 July, 2020)

Financial Services Guides

https://www.amp.com.au/amp/financial-services-guide

(accessed 23 July, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

2. The Fees, Taxes and Terms on the ANZ website make no reference to the sex industry.

https://www.anz.com/aus/ratefee/default.asp?adobe_mc=MCMID%3D33909477040039854084614161962929104808%7CMCAID%3D2F0F10F88515F31D-40000BDBC08227A7%7CMCORGID%3D67A216D751E567B20A490D4C%2540AdobeOrg%7CTS%3D1590361324

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

On 26 October 2020, an Australian Financial Review article published an article containing the following sentence regarding ANZ’s approach to the sex industry

“Representatives from ANZ, CBA and Westpac said they had no such policies regarding the legal sex industry and provided services to business customers on a case-by-case basis.’

However, ANZ did admit that in may have engaged in unlawful discrimination against a bitcoin trader, Allan Flynn. On 14 October 2021, ANZ settled an anti-discrimination claim brought by Allan Flynn, a Canberra based bitcoin trader. Mr Fynn alleged that ANZ’s debanking of Mr Flynn’s sole trader bitcoin business amounted to unlawful discrimination against Mr Flynn on the basis of his “occupation”. As part of the settlement, ANZ published a statement:

ANZ further acknowledges that this could, subject to the defence in section 57N, have amounted to unlawful discrimination.’

https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/anz-settles-debanking-case-brought-by-bitcoin-trader-20211014-p59009.html

(Behind a paywall. Website accessed 22 October, 2021)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

3. Neither the Product Disclosure Statement, Account Fees and Charges, Important Information, Privacy Policy or Security Information on the Arab Bank Australia website make any reference to the sex industry.

https://www.arabbank.com.au/about/fees

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

4. The Terms and Conditions page on the Bank of America website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.bofaml.com/content/boaml/en_us/home.html#

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

5. The Regulations page on the Bank of China website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.bankofchina.com/au/en/aboutus/ab6/

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

6. Neither the “Retail and Business Banking Financial Services Guide, Credit Guide and Privacy Statement”, “Financial Services Guide” or the “Business customer documents” pages on the Bank of Melbourne website make any reference to the sex industry

https://www.bankofmelbourne.com.au/content/dam/bom/downloads/personal/bom-fsg.pdf

(accessed 2 November, 2020)

https://www.bt.com.au/content/dam/public/btfg-bt/documents/legacy/downloads/offerdocs/BT-Advice-FSG.pdf

(accessed 2 November, 2020)

https://www.bankofmelbourne.com.au/help/disclosure-documents/business

(accessed 2 November, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

7. The Important Product Information on the Bank of Sydney website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.banksyd.com.au/important-pds.html

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

8. The ‘Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions’ on the Beem It website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.beemit.com.au/terms

(accessed 23 June, 2020)

However, the Beem It homepage states:

‘Beem It is an independent company backed by Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac.’

https://www.beemit.com.au

(accessed 23 June, 2020)

Given that at least one of the bank’s listed above (NAB) has a policy of discriminating against sex industry businesses, it remains unclear what impact, if any, the relationship between Beem It and these banks has on Beem It’s policy and ability to provide payment services to the sex industry

Beem It declined to comment or clarify the matters raised above. 

In the interests of transparency, we call on all payment service providers to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

9. On 9 July, 2020 a Bendigo and Adelaide Bank representative released the following statement:

“Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is an employer of more than 7,000 staff and provides banking services to more than 1.85 million customers. We serve and support people from all backgrounds and circumstances. We also respect our customers hold a diverse range of views, beliefs and attitudes.

As a key stakeholder in the community, we have a responsibility to conduct business respectfully, ethically, within community expectations and to the highest possible standard.

We take a considered approach to knowing our customers. Each customer is assessed on a case by case basis, including those seeking to establish or deepen their banking relationship with us.

We follow Commonwealth, State and Territory laws, are governed by the highest banking standards and regulations and ensure community expectations inform our corporate conduct.

There are many industries we engage with where the Bank does not have a specific lending policy in place.

Our Bank does not have, nor believe it is necessary to have, a specific policy relating to the provision of services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

As Australia’s fifth biggest retail bank and one of Australia’s most trusted brands, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is committed to reflecting the customers and communities of modern-day Australia and as such, remains focused on supporting them, as we’ve always done.”

The Codes of Practice on the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank website makes no reference to the sex industry.  (Accessed 25 May, 2020)

Although none of the Accessibility and Codes of Practice  (website accessed 24 June, 2021) documents on the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank website refer to the sex industry, the Bendigo Merchant Terms and Conditions (website accessed 24 June, 2021) allow the bank to immediately terminate services due to reputational damage. Clause 29(g) reads:

Without limiting the rights which we may otherwise have arising from a breach of the Agreement, we may immediately terminate the Agreement by Notice to you if we reasonably determine that the continued provision of the Merchant Facility to you may damage our reputation.’

The ongoing stigma attached to the sex industry could be a reason for Bendigo Bank to decide to terminate a sex worker’s merchant facility due to perceived reputational damage.

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

 

10. On 7 July 2020, a Commonwealth Bank representative released the following statement: 

We deal with customers and businesses in the [sex] industry on a case-by-case basis

SWLRV is pleased Commonwealth Bank has publicly released a statement regarding their customers who work in the sex industry. This statement cannot be interpreted to constitute a policy that rules out discrimination against sex workers or sex industry businesses on the basis of industry or occupation.

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

11. The eWAY website makes no reference to the sex industry

However, the Terms and Conditions are vague in their references to ‘unacceptable levels of risk’ and ‘bringing disrepute’ onto the company. 

The ‘Client Service Agreement Terms and Conditions: Version 1.6 AU’ Clause 16.3.8 reads:

eWAY shall have the right to terminate this Agreement immediately by written notice to You if: In eWAY’s reasonable opinion, the processing of Your transactions exposes eWAY to an unacceptable level of risk’

Clause 16.4 reads:

‘eWAY shall have the right to terminate this Agreement by notice in writing if:

16.4.2  You purport to or use the Site, the Services, Intellectual Property or Confidential Information in a manner not approved by eWAY.

16.4.3  You (or any of Your directors or anyone on Your behalf) do or neglect to do anything which in eWAY’s opinion is likely to bring disrepute upon eWAY.’

https://www.eway.com.au/docs/eWAY-Terms-and-Conditions-AU.pdf

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all payment service providers to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

12. The Terms and Conditions on the Fat Zebra website make no reference to the sex industry.

https://www.fatzebra.com.au/terms-and-conditions

(accessed on 7 May, 2020)

In the interest of transparency, we call on all Payment Service Providers to make public their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

13. Greater Bank’s website doesn’t indicate whether or not the bank provides financial services to sex workers or sex industry businesses. Their ‘Site Terms and Conditions’ makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.greater.com.au/legal/site-terms-and-conditions

(accessed on 13 May, 2020)

However, Greater Bank’s ‘Banking General Terms and Conditions 3 March 2020 Version 1.0’ is vague and demonstrates a lack of transparency. Clause 58.3 states: 

‘58.3 ‘We may refuse to open an account at our absolute discretion and are not obliged to provide reasons if we do refuse to open an account.’’

An example of a ‘reason’ to refuse service is reputational risk. Clause 58.3(f) states: 

‘We may refuse to open an account…..if you or an authorised person:

58.3(f) are reasonably considered by us to be or have been engaged in or be or have been associated with unlawful, threatening, abusive or anti-social behaviour or activity that may put us, our staff or our business or our reputation at risk.’

https://www.greater.com.au/media/2356066/updated_14264_gbs_l1_greaterbank_termsconditions_dec19_191231.pdf

(accessed on 13 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to make public their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

14. On 12 May, 2020, a Heritage Bank representative released the following statement:

‘Heritage Bank does not currently have a defined policy in relation to sex workers or sex industry businesses. We are currently developing a policy that will address this topic.’

SWLRV is pleased Heritage Bank is developing a policy in this area. In the meantime, in the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to make public their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

15. The ‘Legal and Privacy’ page on the Australian HSBC website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.hsbc.com.au/legal/

(accessed 22 June, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

16. None of the following pages on the MUFG website make any reference to the sex industry

MUFG Group Code of Conduct 2020

https://www.mufg.jp/dam/profile/governance/ethics/pdf/codeofconduct_en.pdf

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

Risk Management

https://www.mufg.jp/english/profile/governance/risk/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

Compliance

https://www.mufg.jp/english/profile/governance/compliance/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

Terms and Conditions

https://www.mufg.jp/english/conditions/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

For Society

https://www.mufg.jp/english/csr/society/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

Policies and Guidelines

https://www.mufg.jp/english/csr/policy/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

Stakeholder Engagement

https://www.mufg.jp/english/csr/stakeholder/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

Our Responsibility

https://www.mufg.jp/english/csr/groupcsr/index.html

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

17. The Product Disclosure Documentation on the My State Bank website makes no reference to the sex industry.

https://www.mystate.com.au/global/legal/product-disclosure-documentation

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

18. The Legal page on the Rabobank website makes no reference to the sex industry.

https://www.rabobank.com.au/corporate/legal/

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

19. Suncorp Bank’s website doesn’t indicate whether or not the bank provides financial services to sex workers or sex industry businesses. The ‘Legal’ page on their website makes no reference to the sex industry.

https://www.suncorp.com.au/about-us/legal.html 

(accessed on 24 July, 2020)

However, Suncorp Bank’s Responsible Banking and Insurance Policy’ is vague and refers to reputational risk as a reason for the bank to exclude doing business with specific organisations or entire industry sectors.

Clause 5 states: 

‘Suncorp may exclude doing business with organisations where the activities of that organisation are deemed to be inconsistent with Suncorp’s Corporate Responsibility Principles.

Suncorp may exclude doing business with a sector or a specific organisation including when:

-the Corporate Responsibility Council considers doing business with the entity is inappropriate to the extent it may have a negative impact on Suncorp’s reputation’

https://www.suncorpgroup.com.au/uploads/Responsible-Banking-Insurance-Policy-PUBLIC.pdf

(accessed on 24 July, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

20. United Overseas Bank: The “Disclaimer/Terms and Conditions” attached to the eBusiness Account make no reference to the sex industry

https://www.uob.com.sg/business/transact/ebusiness-account.page#benefits

(accessed 24 July, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all banks to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

21. Worldpay is a subsidiary of Fidelity National Information Services. The Terms of Use page on the FIS Global website makes no reference to the sex industry

https://www.fisglobal.com/en-au/terms-of-use

(accessed 25 May, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all payment service providers to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

22. The ‘Terms of Use’ page on the Zip Money Payments website make no reference to the sex industry. 

However, the ‘Terms of Use’ contain a vague clause relating to Termination: 

‘Termination 

Your use of and access to the ZIP Websites may be terminated at any time by ZIP without notice. All restrictions, licences granted by you and all disclaimers and limitations of liability by ZIP will survive termination.’

https://zip.co/terms-and-conditions

(accessed 23 June, 2020)

In the interests of transparency, we call on all payment service providers to publicly state their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.

A third group of financial service providers do not provide services to businesses of any kind, or cater to a small number of types of businesses. For example, a bank might only offer accounts to individuals for personal banking rather than business banking. In this case they don’t hold any position vis-a-vis the sex industry as it is not applicable.

Table 3: Policies Not Applicable

Financial Service Provider

Type Sex Workers Brothels and Escort Agencies

Australian Unity

Bank Not applicable1 Not applicable1

BankVic

Bank Not applicable2 Not applicable2

BankWest

Bank Not applicable3 Not applicable3

Bindo

Payment Processor Not applicable4 Not applicable4
Citibank Bank Not applicable5 Not applicable5
Macquarie Bank Bank Not applicable6 Not applicable6
UBank Bank Not applicable7 Not applicable7
Vend Payment Processor Not applicable8 Not applicable8

key to

Key to Table 3

Grey – Financial service provider provides personal non-commercial banking services only.

Notes on Table 3

1. Australian Unity only offers personal banking services. The page on the bank’s website which lists the types of bank accounts available, only lists personal bank accounts. 

https://www.australianunity.com.au/banking/bankaccounts

(accessed 27 November, 2021)

2. BankVic only provides financial services to its members, namely Victoria Police members and their families as well as members of the health, emergency and public service sectors. This is indicated on the About Us section of their website.

https://bankvic.com.au/about-us

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

BankVic’s website also suggests the bank does not offer business banking accounts. 

https://bankvic.com.au/savings/choose-your-account

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

3. On 18 February, 2022, the Bankwest website contained a message that the bank would cease providing business banking services at an unspecified date in the future. 

As a part of the Commonwealth Bank Group (CBA), BankWest will be transitioning existing business banking customers  to the Commonwealth Bank. 

https://web.archive.org/web/20220217214904/https://www.bankwest.com.au/business/help/business-bank-transition

(accessed 18 February, 2022)

4. Bindo POS provides industry specific business point of sale systems to only twelve industries identified on their website. The sex industry is not on the list of industries they cater to. 

https://bindolabs.com/all-business-types

(accessed 1 June 2021)

5. According to their website, in Australia, Citibank only provides personal banking services to individuals. Citibank does not appear to provide business bank accounts or services in Australia. 

https://www1.citibank.com.au/banking

(accessed 7 May, 2020)

6. Macquarie Bank provides industry specific business banking services to ten industries identified on their website. The sex industry is not on the list of industries they cater to. 

https://www.macquarie.com.au/business-banking.html#industry-specific-banking

(accessed 12 May, 2020)

7. According to their website, UBank only provides personal banking services to individuals. UBank does not appear to provide business bank accounts or services in Australia.

https://www.ubank.com.au/banking-overview

(accessed 28 November, 2021)

8. Vend provides industry specific point of sale software systems to small and medium sized businesses. Their services are designed to appeal to inventory-oriented customers rather than service-focused businesses. Vend caters to only sixteen industries identified on their website. The sex industry is not on the list of industries they cater to. 

https://www.vendhq.com/au/examples

(accessed 1 June, 2021)

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022

Last updated: 21 May, 2022