THE consumer watchdog says there would be significant challenges to proving Bank Australia's refusal to serve some livestock businesses breaches the Competition and Consumer Act.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has assessed whether the financial institution's policy constitutes a secondary boycott in that it acted in concert with animal activists to deny services to some livestock operators.
Bank Australia's 'responsible banking policy' includes not providing financial services to organisations that use intensive animal farming systems or organisations that export live animals.
The bank promotes its practices with the catchcry: "By choosing to bank with us, you will have peace of mind knowing your money won't be supporting the growth of harmful industries."
It's policy is widely advertised and applauded by anti-meat activists Animals Australia.
The ACCC found there was no evidence to back up accusations of anti-competitive behaviour.
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It said Bank Australia had stated publicly that Animals Australia does not influence its policies or lending practices.
The communication between Bank Australia and Animals Australia needs to bring about a common purpose and not simply simultaneous actions, it says.
Mere cross-promotion in public campaigns is not enough be considered 'acting in concert'.
The ACCC also said for conduct to contravene this part of consumer law, it must have the effect of preventing or substantially hindering an industry from exporting its goods.
In a letter to industry representative organisation the Red Meat Advisory Council advising of the findings, ACCC executive director in the competition division Cameron McKean said Bank Australia was a relatively small lender.
"There are a number of other lending institutions from which Australian red meat and livestock businesses can obtain credit or financial services for reasons which include enabling the export of their goods," he said.
Red meat industry leaders and producers have criticised the ACCC's work, saying it appears no investigation actually occurred but rather Bank Australia's claims were taken at face value.
They also say the argument that Bank Australia is only one player "misses the principle that if one is allowed then others will follow."