LOS ANGELES — The Eros Association, Australia’s adults-only industry body, has announced its release of a new report documenting systemic discrimination by Australian banks against sex-related businesses.
The report, which surveyed 24 adults-only businesses including adult retail stores (“sex shops”), entertainment providers and brothels, found that financial service providers were rejecting applications and canceling financial services to businesses based on ethical concerns and internal policies.
“It is moralistic discrimination, completely out of touch with the values of the community,” notes Eros’ General Manager Rachel Payne. “These are legal, tax-paying businesses that are struggling to survive because financial service providers hold outdated views on adult goods and services.”
One case study cited in the report involves the owner of several adult retail stores having merchant facilities removed with less than 24 hours notice by one of the “big four” banks, despite openly operating for more than 20 years.
The report also notes that some applications for merchant facilities are rejected on claims of increased risks of fraud or chargebacks, noting both a lack of data to support this assessment and inconsistencies in application.
“Claims that this is all about merchant risk don’t hold up to scrutiny,” notes Jarryd Bartle, policy advisor at Eros and author of the report. “We found discriminatory practices in applications for business loans, mortgages and debit cards. In one case an employee of an adult store was rejected for a personal loan purely because she worked in a ‘sex-related industry.’”
Deborah Avery, owner, and operator of the adult-only store The Pleasure Box has made a formal complaint to the ACT Human Rights Commission regarding a rejection she received from lay-by service AfterPay. In her complaint, Avery argues that she was discriminated against on the basis of “profession, trade, occupation or calling” — a protected attributed under ACT anti-discrimination law.
There are more than 1,000 adults-only businesses in Australia operating both online and offline and providing a variety of goods and services.
“Broad banking policies that exclude the adult industry have been a common controversy in the United States after U.S. Department of Justice efforts to crack down on money laundering unintentionally forced banks to refuse services to porn performers and other members of the adult industry,” notes an Eros release. “These policies have since been reversed following an outcry by industry representatives and financial analysts.”
The Eros Association has written an open letter to all major banks in Australia as well as the Australian Bankers Association and the Small Businesses and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, calling on them to review internal policies impacting the industry.
“Ultimately I think that most Australians would find these banking practices puritanical and outdated,” Payne concludes. “It is time for financial service providers to reflect modern norms regarding sexuality.”