Australian banks are discriminating against sex workers
AN AUSTRALIAN sex store manager says she is "disappointed and frustrated" after learning her bank had denied her a loan because she was deemed to be in a "high risk sector".
In fact, many businesses and employees of the adult sex industry have claimed they are suddenly being barred from banks across Australia in a case of discrimination gone gaga.
In an eye-opening report released by Australia's adult-only industry body, The Eros Association, 16 out of 24 erotic businesses including sex shops, sex toy manufacturers and brothels reported bank discrimination.
"It seems like something has happened for them to all of a sudden consider this industry high risk," Eros' general manager Rachel Payne told news.com.au.
"Financial service providers were rejecting applications and cancelling financial services to businesses on the basis of ethical concerns and broad internal policies."
While the Commonwealth Bank said it provided banking services to businesses where it believed the risks were "well mitigated", Westpac said it flat-out refused to provide services to brothels.
Five owners surveyed by Eros claimed they had subjected to discrimination by being rejected for a business loan, one said they were turned down for a business debit card and another reported being refused a mortgage for a freehold property that operated a licensed brothel.
One case study involved the owner of several adult retail stores suddenly having their merchant facilities removed with less than 24 hours notice by the National Australia Bank (NAB), despite openly operating for over 20 years.
According to Jayme Boswell and her father Keith, who run a privately owned chain of adult sex shops in Queensland, it was not just the big four banks discriminating against the sex industry.
The Boswells, who own BeDaring The Adult Shop retailers, said they had been barred by the Bank of Queensland after being told it had changed its policy over lending to the sex industry.
They had previously financed investment properties, vehicles and their own home with the same bank for two decades.
Ms Boswell, a BeDaring store manager, was applying for a personal loan when the bank said "they were not loaning to anyone in the adult industry," her father claimed.
He said Jayme had already repaid another personal loan and a car loan with the bank, so they were shocked when they received the news that she had been denied.
Mr Boswell said he called the bank and was told verbally of a policy change but when he asked for a copy, "they said it was internal and it was not for customer viewing".
He said he followed it up with the bank's head office which confirmed the policy had changed.
Daughter Jayme told news.com.au: "I am disappointed and frustrated that after years of loyal banking and loaning with the Bank of Queensland, they would decide one day that my industry was a high-risk sector to loan to.
"It's upsetting that in this day and age the adult industry is still stereotyped and discriminated against."
Mr Boswell, who has also been trying to refinance a motor vehicle, said he had "been running in circles" trying to get answers and claimed the family had been forced out of the bank after a long relationship that had seen BeDaring celebrate 25 years.
In a statement, a Bank of Queensland spokeswoman said she could not comment on individual customers due to confidentiality.
"Like all banks, BOQ regularly reviews its risk appetite and business policies," she said.
"A number of industries have been identified that fall outside BOQ's risk appetite, which include online gambling, arms manufacturers, adult entertainment and businesses with unusual transaction activity, or that are frequently associated with criminal organisations."
Eros' Ms Payne said the banks were ultimately discriminating against women due to the fact the modern demographic for adult sex shops was female orientated.
"The majority of the audience is women, the majority of the products are for women," she said.
"Gone are the days where adult sex shops were (about) walking down dark alleyways and full of porn.
"These are legal, tax paying businesses that are struggling to survive because financial service providers hold outdated views on adult goods and services.
"It is moralistic discrimination, completely out of touch with the values of the community."
WHAT THE BANKS SAY
The report states the reasons provided by the banks is "limited", but most believe the issue arise from moral concerns or "perceptions that the industry is at an increased risk of fraud, charge-backs and non-repayment".
Without disclosure from the banks on lending policies, news.com.au understands banks have "different appetites" when it comes to the adult sex industry.
A source who wished to remain anonymous told news.com.au: "It can be hard for you to get merchant facilities if you're a massage parlour and receive a lot of cash payments."
The Commonwealth Bank
"We actively consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of our clients' activities, and we only lend to businesses and projects where we understand and believe those risks are well mitigated."
National Australia Bank
"As part of its due diligence processes, NAB reviews all customer applications for banking services on a case-by-case basis taking into account a range of factors.
"In doing so NAB recognises that certain industries carry higher environmental, social and governance risk sensitivity, requiring particularly careful consideration before a decision is made.
"The adult industry is one of these industries."
"We assess all applications for loans and merchant facilities on a case-by-case basis however, we do not provide facilities, including merchant facilities, to customers known to be operating brothels."
Did not respond to news.com.au's request for comment.