Australian Commission Investigates Banks Closing Bitcoin Companies’ Accounts

Journalist:
October 19, 2015

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating why some Australian banks are closing bitcoin business bank accounts, according to the Australian Financial Review. The Australian Financial Review previously reported that 17 bitcoin companies in Australia received letters from banks saying they planned to close their accounts. Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan asked the ACCC to investigate the matter.

Rod Sims, chairman of ACCC, said banks have been asked to explain their actions. He said the commission is also asking the banks what contact they had with each other over these actions. Sims said he hoped to find out why the banks were taking these actions and he hopes to issue a report in a couple of months.

Senator: Bitcoin Threatens Banks

Canavan welcomed the ACCC investigation. He said in a letter that the banks were putting a dynamic local industry’s viability and potential at risk because they did not wish to compete with these emerging firms.

Canavan said there are laws against anti-competitive behavior, especially for companies that hold a significant market share. He said the banks have great influence in the market and also a great responsibility not to misuse their position. He said he is not sure that this has happened with regard to the bitcoin situation, but digital currencies do pose a threat to banks.

A committee in August found that cryptocurrencies were becoming mainstream and disrupting the existing financial services sector.

Sam Dastyari, a labor senator who chaired the senate economics references committee for digital currency, previously said the banks’ actions came while they were showing interest in utilizing bitcoin and block chain technology. Dastyari also welcomed the news that Canavan’s concerns will be investigated.

Also read: Australian businesses ditch bitcoin after banks act against bitcoin exchanges

Bankers Association Disputes Allegations

Four banks contacted by the Financial Review referred the newspaper to The Australian Bankers Association (ABA).
Steven Munchenberg, chief executive for that organization, said ABA had not heard from the ACCC about the investigation but would fully cooperate.

Munchenberg disputed the allegation that banks were acting anti-competitively. He said bitcoin presented a risk to the banks’ compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) laws. He said ABA will focus on disproving anti-competitive behavior allegations.

Munchenberg further said banking associations in the U.K. and Europe had spoken with him about not banking bitcoin companies while addressing AML/CTF concerns. He suggested some bitcoin companies were not complying with the need to address these concerns.

Images from Shutterstock.

Last modified (UTC): October 19, 2015 17:49

Lester Coleman

Lester Coleman is a media relations consultant for the payments and automated retailing industries.