Australian banks have advised Australian bitcoin companies they are closing their accounts, according to The Australian Financial Review. The publication has seen the letters from Westpac Banking Corporation and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Ron Tucker, chairman of The Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association, said all large Australian banks were shutting the door on bitcoin companies.
The banks sent letters to Australian bitcoin exchanges, including Bit Trade and Buyabitcoin. The letters said the banks will close the exchanges’ accounts and did not give any explanation.
At least 17 Australian bitcoin companies have received letters and 13 already have had their accounts closed.
“Our members have been unable to obtain any formal clarification on the reasons for closure, except for references to policy or risk. Just what policies or risks these are have not been specified,” said Tucker, who is the founder of Bit Trade.
The industry is more than happy to talk to the banks about their concerns. However, neither the association nor its members have been given the opportunity.
In August, an Australian Senate committee said bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were becoming part of the mainstream and should be recognized as a regular currency for goods and services tax purposes.
“It is widely recognised that the banking sector could stand to be disrupted, as indicated in comments from Westpac’s CEO two weeks ago. Companies in this industry are in the business of offering and developing cost-effective financial services for consumers and businesses,” Tucker said. “However, should bitcoin companies be shut out of the Australian marketplace because of de-banking actions, this question will forever remain a hypothetical.”
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Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who chaired the Senate Economics References Committee into digital currency, expressed concern about the situation.
“I am concerned that there is an allegation that Australian banks are deliberately choking small businesses, while setting themselves up to offer the same services,” he said. “We don’t have a four-pillars policy to allow banks to guillotine emerging industries they are competing with … These small local digital currency companies are essentially competing to provide trading platforms, and develop emerging technologies.”
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