Australian Bank Bitcoin Crackdown Could Fuel Startup Flight

Yessi Bello Perez
Sep 22, 2015 at 16:11 UTC
Updated Sep 23, 2015 at 12:45 UTC
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A bitcoin business in Australia is eyeing banking opportunities abroad following a perceived crackdown from banks in the country.

The comments, made by Andrew Smith, the general manager of BuyaBitcoin follow on from reports that various Australian banks have decided to shut the accounts of some 17 bitcoin operating businesses.

Smith confirmed that BuyaBitcoin – founded in 2014 – had “experienced bank closures in Australia recently”. He told CoinDesk:

“It’s an Australia industry-wide issue. We are not in a position to comment on the specifics … We are currently looking at opportunities outside of Australia (such as the UK) as the banking community is more open to innovation and exploring new technologies such as the bitcoin space.”

According to the report by the Australian Financial Review, approximately 17 bitcoin companies in the country received letters from two of Australia’s biggest banks – Westpac Banking Corporation and Commonwealth Bank of Australia – notifying them that their bank accounts would be closed without further explanation.

Thirteen of these companies, the report says, have already had their accounts closed.

A spokesperson from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia told CoinDesk that it was unable to comment on individual customers, but added that “Commonwealth Bank consistently serves each customer on a case-by-case basis”.

CoinDesk reached out to Westpac for comment but no reply had been received at the time of press.

Possible investigation

Today also saw the emergence of an additional report which suggested that Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is considering investigating the actions of Australia banks for shutting down the accounts of bitcoin businesses, prompted by Queensland Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan – who reportedly urged the ACCC to check whether the banks actions had resulted in anti-competitive behaviour.

A spokesperson for the ACCC said they had no further comment at this stage.

Further news from Australia indicates that individual bitcoin traders – as well as businesses – had also been affected by bank’s allegedly refusing to do business with them.

Australian banks and crypto

The reports come after the Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced in May that it was planning on using Ripple technology to facilitate payments between its subsidiaries and described distributed protocols as “the way of the future”.

Later, Westpac Banking Corporation and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group disclosed that they were experimenting with peer-to-peer transfers on the Ripple network.

Sydney image via Shutterstock.

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