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Melanie Porter September 22, 2023 3 min read
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority to Expand Review on De-Banking Tied to Gambling
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has announced it will further investigate the de-banking of gamblers
According to the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) chief executive, Nikhil Rathi, “further work” was needed to be absolutely sure that no bank, payment company, or building has closed down someone’s bank account primarily because of their political views.
Primary Findings Flesh out the Case
The conduct regulator of close to 50,000 companies aimed at ensuring all financial markets are “honest, competitive, and fair” has completed its initial data exercise on bank account access and closure based on information collected “at speed” between July 2022 and June 2023.
The most common arguments bank service providers offered for shutting down, suspending, or declining accounts were account inactivity/sleeping accounts and concerns related to financial crimes.
The initial probe was launched as a response to a scandal revolving around controversial politician Nigel Farage who had his bank account shut down by Coutts, a reputable banking company that provides private banking and wealth management services.
The watchdog concluded more work was needed to assess the information and effectively address the current gaps shown in the data. An international perspective on the closure of bank accounts has also been published by the same institution.
Over the years, certain UK banks have been known to close the accounts of clients who were involved in gambling activities, as a result of the associated anti-money laundering risks and obligations that were perceived as being higher.
What the FCA Will Focus On Next
According to an open letter written as a response to the Gamblers Consumer Forum’s query on individuals and businesses who have lost access to their bank account because of gambling transactions or ties to the gambling industry, the financial watchdog implied its further investigation would include this topic as well.
Additionally, the follow-up of their initial review would also be aimed at making sure that all the data that has been reported to them has been accurate, with special emphasis on outlier firms.
More supervisory work would also be needed to check companies’ conclusions on those accounts that they have closed based on certain political views. More assessments of accounts closed for reputational risk-connected arguments would also be necessary, as announced by the FCA.
The watchdog would also look into standard bank account applications and terminations that had been declined, as well as the reasons why 1.1 million in the UK were currently “unbanked”, along with studying the main characteristics of the said population.
Chief executive Rathi further commented that a critical question for policymakers was whether all “individuals, businesses, and organizations” should benefit from the right to own a bank account, similar to other countries.
Finally, the follow-up would also aim to engage with consumer groups and organizations and get a deeper understanding of their own experiences and of the impact of having their bank account terminated, declined, or suspended.
In April 2022, the FCA seized £2 million ($2.60 million) from QPay Europe because of the money being connected to a $150 million bank fraud that unfolded in the US.
At the start of 2023, the financial watchdog gave Trustly, an international payment platform for digital account-to-account transactions, the green light to acquire Ecospend, a UK-based open banking platform for payments.