Canberra sex toy business takes Afterpay, zipPay to ACT Human Rights Commission

The owner of a Canberra-based online sex shop has taken on two digital payment services that have refused to accept her as a merchant.

The Pleasure Box owner Deborah Avery filed a complaint with the ACT Anti-Discrimination Commissioner after zipPay and Afterpay turned her down because her business is part of the adult industry.

Afterpay told Ms Avery it doesn't offer its services to adult industry products, while zipPay said it wouldn't service any adult business with a turnover lower than $10 million.

Ms Avery said being refused the specialist merchant services, both of which allow customers the option to buy now and pay later, has caused her economic hardship and placed her at a commercial disadvantage.

Pleasure Box owner Deborah Avery is taking on Afterpay and zipPay through the Anti-Descrimination Commissioner. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Pleasure Box owner Deborah Avery is taking on Afterpay and zipPay through the Anti-Descrimination Commissioner. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"A lot of people go 'should I buy food for the family, pay my electricity bill or buy a ... dildo'," Ms Avery told Fairfax Media.

"Personally, I'd go the dildo, but other people for some reason think they have other priorities.

"I want to be able to offer my customers Afterpay and zipPay. It's my customers that are being discriminated against because they're making a [moral] judgement."

Emails seen by Fairfax Media show Afterpay initially turned Ms Avery down because her website was on a platform unsupported by the service.

When Ms Avery changed to a compatible platform, Afterpay explained it didn't actually provide its services to the adult industry, though said that policy would be reviewed at the end of the quarter.

"Please note, the industry is not accepted right now because the industry carries an above average non-repayment/fraud rate on the consumer end. Not because it is the adult industry," one email said.

An Afterpay spokeswoman said: "Afterpay has only made itself available to certain categories of goods in order to manage the risks that face the business and ensure it can provide the best possible solution to end customers.

"As the business continues to grow, Afterpay plans on expanding the service across a broader range of categories."

zipPay did not provide an explanation to Ms Avery and declined to comment to Fairfax Media.

ACT Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Karen Toohey said she didn't comment on individual cases but noted the commission did not have the power to rule on complaints.

"When a complaint is made, the commission usually provides a copy of it to the person or organisation against whom the allegation has been made," she said.

"If a complaint can't be resolved through the Human Rights Commission's conciliation process, or is finalised on some other basis, in some circumstances the complainant can then apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a decision on the matter."

In a recent report by Eros, the peak body for the adults-only industry, six out of 24 sex industry businesses cited discrimination by specialist merchant services such as AfterPay and zipPay.

More than half of businesses surveyed reported a recent incident of discrimination by one of the big four banks, and a further four participants told of discrimination by a medium-sized bank.

Eros general manager Rachel Payne said the peak body was "constantly inundated" by owners and workers within adult industry who had faced discrimination from financial service providers.

"Eros believes assessments for access to financial services should be made on the basis of individual risks for particular businesses, not broad-brush policies that exclude all sex-related goods and services," she said.

"Vague references to 'internal policies' or 'merchant criteria' are not acceptable defences to discrimination against a whole industry or occupation."

Ms Avery, a former Sex Party candidate, has previously won a battle with IP Australia to register the name "F--kerware" and warned she wouldn't back down.

She said Australia was more prudish now than when she first set up shop.

"I'm a little bit outraged that after 17 years I'm still dealing with this kind of crap," she said.