Customers of four major Australian banks are complaining that their cryptocurrency-related transactions are being blocked, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The banks in question are National Australia Bank, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation. Customers are claiming that the banks are blocking transfers to the exchanges CoinJar, Coinbase, CoinSpot, and BTC Markets, and/or freezing the accounts of customers who attempt to use them. The banks are either denying that this is true, or giving opaque answers.
A spokesperson for National Australia Bank said: “While we don’t support unregulated currencies, NAB does not deny the right of individual customers to buy virtual currencies.”
The article details an Australian citizen who received notification of ANZ closing her account, without offering a specific explanation. The customer implies on social media that it was her use of cryptocurrency that caused this; an ANZ spokeswoman said that the bank “does not prohibit customers buying digital currencies”.
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Commonwealth Bank has specifically excluded cryptocurrency activity from online banking activities since June 2017, reserving the right to refuse a transaction “because the destination account previously has been connected to a fraud or an attempted fraudulent transaction or is an account used to facilitate payments to Bitcoins or similar virtual currency payment services”.
A Commonwealth Bank spokesman said: “Our customers can interact with these currencies as long as they comply with our terms and conditions and all relevant legal obligations.”
A Westpac spokeswoman stated to the SMH: “Where we cannot verify the origin of transfers we may act to ensure we comply with Australia’s anti-money laundering obligations.”
CoinSpot, an Australia-based cryptocurrency wallet provider and exchange, said in a statement today: “The temporary restriction on AUD deposits will remain in effect until at least the first week of the new year…unfortunately Australian banks have been so far unwilling to work with the digital currency industry which leads to frequent account closures and strict limits on accounts whilst they remain operational, in effect debanking our industry.”
Earlier this month, Australia passed a law requiring that Bitcoin exchanges register with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the agency which watches for money laundering and terrorism-financing, according to a report in Cointelegraph.com. The law introduced jail time and fines for the crime of operating an unregulated cryptocurrency exchange, bringing cryptocurrency more in line with fiat currency in this regard.
“We are aware that on occasion banks will freeze payments while they clarify with their customers that the funds were not fraudulently sent from their account, this is standard best practice for the banks and protects everyone,” said Russel Wilson, founder of CoinSpot.