Bank freezes tattoo artist’s accounts
A Gold Coast tattoo artist says she was treated like a "criminal" and discriminated against by Bank of Queensland after it froze all of her accounts without warning.
Bianka Roggensack was shocked by the move this week that left her suddenly unable to run her business or pay her suppliers.
But Bank of Queensland says the only error on its part was that it let her slip through the cracks when it changed its policies to ban tattoo parlours several years ago - so it's letting her keep her accounts open, for now.
The owner of Inkspired Tattoo and Beauty, who has been a customer of the bank since 2012, first discovered her accounts had been frozen when she went to pay a bill on Tuesday.
"My card was declined, I thought that was pretty strange," the 31-year-old said.
"Later in the day again I couldn't use it. I logged into the bank account and I couldn't access my account info."
Ms Roggensack, who employs four tattoo artists and three apprentices and has hundreds of clients at her Coolangatta store, spent nearly an hour on hold before getting someone on the phone.
She then spent another hour on the line, as the woman went back and forth with her supervisor, before finally being told it was a branch issue and that she would have to wait until the next morning.
"The next morning I got a call from a lass who said, 'I'm not sure if you're aware but two years ago we changed our policy and decided we wouldn't have relationships with certain industries such as tattoo shops'," Ms Roggensack said.
"She said, 'I'm not sure how yours managed to slip through'."
Ms Roggensack said she was "indignant and outraged" - but Bank of Queensland said the best it could do was give her until November 11 to find a new bank and remove thousands of dollars from her accounts.
She explained that she was leaving the country on Friday and asked how she was going to find a new bank, transfer all her accounts and change her point-of-sale systems in that time, but Bank of Queensland wouldn't budge.
It was only after she posted an angry rant on Facebook that attracted hundreds of comments and attention from the media that she got an email from the bank saying it was a "misunderstanding".
"About half an hour later I got a call from a Bank of Queensland manager to say they were very apologetic, (that) the policy was under review and they were happy to continue their banking relationship with me," she said.
"They gave me $100, (to say) sorry for your inconvenience."
Ms Roggensack is still deciding whether to switch banks when she returns from overseas. She worries she'll be forced to move anyway if Bank of Queensland reviews its policy and decides to keep it.
"Is it going to affect my ability to expand my business and get loans? It's a lot for me to consider," she said. "I'm just wondering how many people this has affected, what impact it's had on their business."
If she hadn't caused a fuss, Ms Roggensack says it would have been a "disaster".
"It could have potentially cost me thousands," she said. "Put it this way - it took me over four hours to resolve, and if I was sitting there tattooing you, you would have had to pay me $600. Tattooists make quite a bit of money. They're quite happy to charge us fees and all the extras."
Ms Roggensack says Bank of Queensland's approach is "archaic".
"They're saying two years ago they decided on this policy, it was probably three or four years ago that all the licensing and industry regulations (were changed) and our industry got cleaned up," she said.
In 2014, around half of all Gold Coast tattoo parlours were associated with bikie gangs. By February 2015, police were confident the sector had been cleaned up.
Tattooists now have to have criminal record checks, "finger printing, palm printing, if we have any criminal involvement we can't get our licence".
"Our industry has been cleaned up to the hilt, there's no chance of having any laundered money, bikies, underground contacts," Ms Roggensack said.
"I am a legal business. I've got no criminal record, no blemishes (on my banking record), no links or accusations to anything. I've never even had a speeding fine."
In a statement, a spokeswoman said Bank of Queensland "offers its sincere apologies for this error". "Unfortunately the customer's accounts were incorrectly frozen due to a failure in our processes," she said.
"BOQ has worked with the customer directly to reinstate all services."
Concerns about money laundering and other illegal activity have led many banks to tighten up their "restricted industry" policies in recent years. In 2010, Bank of Queensland shut down its Punchbowl branch in Sydney after it was used by a Mexican drug cartel to wash its funds, according to Fairfax.
Last year, the Small Business Ombudsman accused the banks of "discriminating" against legal businesses. "It's a bit rich for the banks to decide which industries are moral and which aren't," Kate Carnell said at the time.
"It's hypocritical that banks do not provide services to the adult industry when businesses are appropriately registered and regulated. Access to banking services is essential for a legitimate business to operate."
CommBank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac have been contacted to clarify their policies on doing business with tattoo parlours.
A NAB spokeswoman said, "As Australia's biggest business bank, NAB supports a range of Australian small businesses - including tattoo parlours - with their banking and finance needs. We regularly review our banking services to various industries, sectors and activities and assess businesses on a range of factors as part of our governance framework."
An ANZ spokeswoman said, "We take our obligations seriously under Australia's Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination laws and subject to passing our normal policies for retail customers, we have no restrictions on providing products or lending to individuals employed within the tattoo industry."