Thursday 10 October 2013 9:06 pm

UK banks discuss plan to ban payments to video websites

BRITISH banks yesterday discussed a plan to ban payments to thousands of non-UK video websites, City A.M. has learned, in a move which freedom of speech groups said should be debated in parliament.

Under the proposal, UK banks and card providers would be obliged to block payments to websites that provide sample video clips of pornography that would be regulated in the UK outside a paywall – typically put there in order to encourage new customers to subscribe. Atvod, which has an existing remit to regulate video-on-demand in the domestic market, has begun discussing the proposal with banks without parliamentary approval.

The plan would see UK banks banned from handling payments to foreign websites offering such publicly available content, regardless of which country the provider is based in or where their servers are hosted.

An Atvod spokesman yesterday confirmed it had held a “very positive meeting” with the Payments Council, British Bankers Association, UK Cards Association and other leading payments providers.

“This is something that parliament should debate and decide on,” said Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group. “It shouldn’t be obscure subcommittees telling banks how to behave in order to decide what UK customers may or may not access.”

He added: "Whether these sites should be operating in the way that they do is another matter. But the consequences might be quite bizarre – you don't know whether this is actually going to tackle the problem. That's what democratic processes are about: deciding whether you've got the evidence to act."

Earlier this year Atvod suggested that sites offering uncensored sample clips without age checks are breaching the 1964 Obscene Publications Act.

As a result the regulator asked whether it can be right  "for businesses which are likely to be operating illegally to draw revenues from UK bank and credit card accounts".