Australia’s competition watchdog is set to investigate the country’s biggest banks for shutting down the accounts of Bitcoin traders.
The ACCC confirmed the investigation to Queensland Nationals Senator Matthew
Canavan, who sent a letter to the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Rodd Sims urging him to launch a formal investigation.
“It appears to me to be an amazing coincidence that a number of large banks have all of a sudden decided to deny services to fledgling Bitcoin and digital currency operators,” said Senator Canavan, who was part of a recent Senate Committee looking at Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – reports ABC News.
“They are clearly competitors to their business model, albeit small ones at this stage, and there are clear laws that we’ve got against businesses refusing to supply other businesses if they do so for an anti-competitive purpose.”
Mr Canavan said he called for the investigation because he believed there had been a coordinated attack on the digital currency industry.
“I think the ACCC should be asking the banks some serious questions about why they’ve done this and on what legal grounds they believe that they should not be providing services to Bitcoin operators,” he said.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who chaired the Senate Economics References Committee into digital currency, also backed calls for an inquiry.
He argued that Australia’s financial intuitions were abusing the protections given to them by the Government by refusing to deal with Bitcoin traders.
“You have an APRA arrangement that affectively means they’re too big to fail,” he said.
“You have up to $750 billion worth of their deposits being guaranteed – all of this provided by the Australian people as an implicit subsidy, that implicit subsidy doesn’t exist so that they can behave in a way that stifles and stops growing industries in this country.”
Bitcoin blacklisted claims
The ACCC inquiry comes after the ABC spoke to several Bitcoin traders who alleged they were being systematically discriminated against by financial institutions, including The Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and the National Australia Bank.
Michaela Juric, 22, has been trading the virtual currency Bitcoin for two and a half years, and said she had been blacklisted from nine financial institutions.
“I’ve been blacklisted from Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne, Bank SA, Bank of Queensland, Rams and BT Superfund.
“I can’t open or hold any accounts with those institutions because I deal with Bitcoin,” she said.
Daniel Wilczynski, 28, is a former Bitcoin trader who is now out of business after having his personal and business accounts closed by six different banks.
“Everything was going well, but my first bank closure was by NAB and then I had ANZ close, and then Westpac and then about two months ago the Commonwealth Bank closed my bank accounts,” he said.
Mr Wilczynski said both his personal and business accounts were shut down, resulting in a substantial financial and personal loss.
“I was thinking of hiring somebody, I could have had an extra developer working with me right now, and instead I’m out of a job and out of income trying to figure out what to do.”
Adam Poulton, the president of the Bitcoin Association of Australia, said the acting chief executive of the Australian Bankers’ Association, Tony Pearson, got in touch with him yesterday to let him know that the banks were looking at ways to work with Bitcoin traders.
“It’s the first time that the association has actually talked to us and is investigating our concerns and seeing if there is some way we can do business,” Mr Poulton said.
Mr Canavan was sceptical about the timing of the ABA’s indication that it is more receptive to Bitcoin traders concerns.
“It’s an amazing coincidence that all the banks have decided to foreclose their business to digital currencies at one point, and it also seems to be an amazing coincidence that just as this has gone public the Australian Bankers Association have responded,” he said.
“I’ll leave it to others to draw conclusions.”
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