it's not just about Nigel

who are the real victims of the banks' prejudices?

by Jem Shaw

The press is having a barrel-load of fun with the de-banking of Nigel Farage. Like him or not, this is a man with a conspicuous public image, and I applaud that light has been cast on certain banks' behaviour. But Mr Farage tends to polarise opinion and I worry that this could obscure a problem that extends beyond the debanking of a few individuals. Yes, there should be investigation; yes there should be correction. But while we're at it, let's look beyond the banks' prejudice against those who've dared to speak in words of which they don't approve.

Witness the UK money service bureaux and associated payment businesses who've been denied banking or had licences revoked without proper justification. While there are undoubtedly some bad actors in the sector, accurate investigation proves them to be a vanishingly small minority. The majority of banks simply don't seem to like the sector. That, or they feel an appropriate level of diligence to be commercially unrewarding. Babies and bathwater are a far more convenient solution.

This forces people working in the UK and wanting to support their families at home to use high-cost transmitters, reducing those often meagre funds that are so desperately needed by some of the most vulnerable members of society. And here at home, the closure of hundreds of small payment institutions has resulted in thousands of lost jobs, creating knock-on economic impact to local communities.

Banks, with the tacit support of the FCA, have pursued and impeded at least one entirely reputable authorised payment institution with a vigour that looks uncomfortably like persecution. Ultimately, that API has withdrawn UK services, creating further disruption among SPIs, their employees and the communities they serve. This without a single evidential item or even implication of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Why is there so little accountability? Banks enjoy considerable protection as a result of their perceived position of being essential to public infrastructure. If they stumble, they're rescued by the public purse, yet seem to have little obligation to the public that gives them life. They intrude on privacy by demanding credit checks even when no credit is offered - and then, it seems, can thoughtlessly breach GDPR in casual conversation.

To be de-banked is close to being made an Orwellian unperson. For a Nigel Farage, I appreciate that that's damned annoying. For those with a less public persona, it can mean a practical inability to make purchases, receive salaries or benefits, obtain a mortgage, buy online... all those financial activities that we take for granted.

It astonishes me that the question has even to be asked whether banking is a fundamental human right. Banks are offered protections that argue strongly that they are, so surely they must be forced to adopt some form of Universal Service Obligation and to act in the public interest rather than in favour of their own attitudes.

Clarency 'C'

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