The Countryside Alliance has vowed to take action to ensure that its members are not discriminated against after it was revealed that hunts have been excluded from taking debit and credit card payments by a financial services company as the much-publicised Nigel Farage de-banking saga continues.
Hunts that have been using SumUp, a card reader provider, have even had their devices switched off mid-way through fundraising events, with financial implications for those packs that have had their facilities withdrawn. In some incidents hunts were raising money for charitable causes when they had their accounts suspended, therefore having an impact on the donations subsequently made to good causes.
Greg Smith MP, who sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, said:
The Farage case of political de-banking has only just blown the tip off the iceberg and it is now quite clear that there is widespread de-banking going on for perfectly legitimate and legal activities, of which hunts are one.
There needs to be a much wider interrogation into the entire bank and financial services system in the UK to make sure that people are not discriminating against businesses carrying out perfectly legitimate businesses,” he continued.
The Oakley Hunt was taking payments from visitors to their point-to-point held at Brafield-On-The-Green, Northamptonshire, in March this year when their card machine was cut off halfway through the event. This was not an isolated incident and other hunts across the country have experienced similar issues.
Having been using SumUp for about a year, the hunt contacted the service provider and were subsequently advised that “after a thorough review of your profile we will not be able to provide you with our services”. They have since been provided with a device by their bank.
On their website, SumUp have a list of restricted businesses which includes “hunt clubs/activities”, whilst “guns, firearms, air soft guns, munitions sale and distribution” are also excluded. In addition “illegal or legally questionable businesses and products”, escort services and fortune tellers also have been blacklisted.
Polly Portwin, Director of the Countryside Alliance’s hunting campaigns said:
It is disgraceful that members of rural communities and those who take part in a lawful activity can be discriminated against in this way and effectively treated as criminals. We will be writing to banks and financial institutions to challenge any terms of business which exclude hunts and shooting businesses in their small print.”
A spokesman from SumUp said:
SumUp operates under strict requirements imposed by the financial regulator, the card schemes, and our acquiring banks, who we rely on to operate our payment services. Therefore, we have guidelines from these external organisations on the types of business that we cannot support, which are clearly defined on our website.”
The British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), the governing body for the hunting associations, expressed their concerns about the exclusion of hunts which conduct lawful hunting activities. Oliver Hughes, managing director of the BHSA said:
This appears to be yet another example of prejudice against the hunting community and it is wholly unacceptable to deny access to these services on that basis.”
Following the revelations, the Telegraph then reported that a third of shooting businesses have had their accounts suddenly closed down, with major high street banks including HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest among those named as having refused accounts or credit to businesses linked to the rural pursuit.
Sir Robert Goodwill, the Tory chairman of the environment committee and a former Defra minister, said:
Shooting is not only a perfectly legal act, it contributes tremendously to management of the rural environment and habitats for wildlife.
They’re de-banking people for conducting an entirely lawful and in my view environmentally positive undertaking and trying to cancel the countryside and rural way of life. This is an outrageous infringement of landowners’ rights to do whatever they wish with their land. It’s all becoming a little bit Big Brother.”