Many of the most popular or well-known payment gateways are discriminatory against adult websites. Between fraud, fees, and reputational risk, payment providers associate great risk with adult entertainment merchants and often deny service.
Or worse, they allow you to use their service but don’t directly update you when changes to terms occur regarding normal operations. That applies to more than just their own terms, but also that of card processors like Visa and MasterCard. The latter of which has recently updated their rules for adult entertainment businesses.
Using an adult merchant account gives you specific protections related to your high-risk industry, helping you stay fully compliant with service providers, acquiring banks, banking partners, card payment processors, and federal regulations.
MasterCard’s Rule Changes and How They Affect Your Adult Payment Gateway
Back in April of 2021, MasterCard made significant changes to their rules directed toward adult content merchants.
New Requirements for Merchants, Payment Gateways, and Acquiring Banks
In order to use MasterCard’s services, a merchant of adult content must receive “unambiguous” consent. Adult media sites like PornHub, OnlyFans, and even online dating sites will also be required to verify the age and identity of persons depicted in their published media as well as the user uploading said content. This is according to a post published on MasterCard’s own blog page, which can be read in full here.
Adult payment gateways and acquiring banks are getting a security update, as well. Now, banks need to verify that merchants have the ability to monitor, block, and remove illegal content. Banks will need to ensure a site has a review process implemented before users are allowed to upload content. There also needs to be a complaints and appeals system implemented.
MasterCard’s Changes Affect the Entire Adult Industry
Every member of the adult entertainment industry are affected by the payment network’s changes, from the largest sites to individual models.
For streaming sites and fan sites, there must be a written agreement between site and contributor. Only verified users are able to upload content, but after their identities have been confirmed. Content will be reviewed (either before publication or in real time). Merchants need to submit monthly reports to their acquiring bank regarding flagged and removed content.
The rules above also apply to pay sites, though focus is more on reporting and removing content.
Studios should have model consent forms that act as identity verification and adhere to BRAM (Business Risk Assessment and Mitigation) policies.
Individuals need to verify their identity.
You can view the full list of requirements here for more specific information about the new regulations.
Rules Change, Business Will Continue to Thrive
Don’t let these new rules scare you into closing up shop. The adult content industry isn’t going anywhere. Instead, it will adapt to and embrace the changes, albeit with minor annoyances.
The new rules make it clearer how to stay compliant, outlining the steps needed to be taken and the monthly requirements to keep business running. In the end, the new rules do ensure protection for viewers, content creators, and platforms in various ways. It helps platforms recognize and take action against trafficking, as well as lawsuits related to consent.
Using an Adult Merchant Account to Stay Compliant
MasterCard is just one of several payment networks. Though it hasn’t happened yet, this may be the beginning of a wave of new regulations across the entire landscape, not just MasterCard. An adult merchant account can help you stay in business, and here’s how.
Stay on Top of New Developments
Changes like this can happen seemingly out of nowhere and lead to many businesses scrambling to figure out what to do. Staying up to date with the latest news regarding payment processors, payment networks, and banks help keep you in-the-know and more prepared when changes do happen.
But not everyone has time for that, which is why adult merchant account providers are one of your best solutions. Providers like DirectPayNet stay up to date for you, so you don’t have to worry when major changes take place. You’ll be informed of what’s changing and what you need to do to stay fully compliant.
Better still, there’s always a grace period for making the adjustments. Networks know companies that use their payment services can’t adjust in an instant. Keep that in mind when planning your next steps.
Avoid Legal and Compliance Issues
Your payment processor has set rules for each type of merchant, and often those rules break down even further. It’s important that you read the rules related to high-risk merchants and adult content sellers to avoid legal issues and keep that processor running.
An adult merchant account specializes in providing service to adult content sellers, so your provider will help you understand what it takes to stay legal.
Laws differ across the world (for international merchants), as well as by state or region. It’s important to recognize what you are legally allowed to sell and avoid the areas where you might run into problems. For example, it is illegal to sell adult toys in Alabama. Therefore, if that is your online business, you should make sure your site does not allow the purchase of your products in that state.
Something to note is PCI compliance. You’ll be charged a fee if you are not PCI-compliant, so it’s better to go through the short process of becoming compliant. You will have to pay to be compliant, but it’s far less than what the non-compliance fee adds up to at the end of the year.
Mitigate Fraud and Chargebacks
Aside from rule changes, two of the biggest issues adult merchants face are related to chargebacks and fraud.
High-risk merchants of all kinds suffer the consequences of chargebacks, which can eventually lead to your account being frozen or terminated. To improve chargeback prevention, you should make it as easy as possible for customers to recognize the charge.
There are many hoops and hurdles adult sellers have to jump through in order for online payment processors to allow service, but often times that leads to customers not recognizing the charge. This is called friendly fraud. The right adult merchant account provider will provide insight into what you can do to minimize this, like giving examples of what a charge will look like on a bank statement.
For physical adult products, require a signature upon delivery. It’s a simple yet effective way to mitigate chargebacks.
As for other types of fraud, one of the safest payment services is ACH processing. This type of payment processing also makes subscription services easy by using a direct payment connection for recurring payments, regardless of debit card info. Implementing a checkout security service like 3D Secure is another great way to avoid online fraud.
It’s understandable that you’ll want to offer more than just ACH as a payment method. A good adult merchant account will come with fraud protection, allowing you offer debit and credit card processing or e-checks while lowering the risk of fraud.
How to Find the Right Adult Merchant Account Provider
There are several steps you can take to ensure you’re using the right merchant account for your e-commerce store.
The number one thing you should not do is jump the gun and apply for a merchant account with popular processors simply because you’ve heard of them. Do the research, instead. Many popular payment processors don’t work well with high-risk merchants. Choosing convenience and popularity is a fast way to get your account shut down.
The best thing to do is research payment processors for the adult industry. There are many providers out there (that you may not have heard of) specializing in adult merchant accounts and adult payment gateways.
DirectPayNet is one such company that provides adult credit card processing backed with years of experience in the adult industry, high-risk businesses, and payment solutions. The right provider will be able to negotiate terms and pricing that are suitable to your specific needs.
Have Multiple Accounts
You have backups for everything: your site, your content, your documents. You should also have a backup payment gateway.
Using multiple high-risk merchant accounts is not only a great way to ensure smooth processing in case your primary gateway fails. It’s also a way for you to compare services between two merchant account providers. You can readily compare the upsides and downsides to both, and use the one that benefits you less as your backup.
Applying for an Adult Merchant Account
Applying for one takes an extra step. You’ll have to meet the same requirements as all other high-risk businesses in addition to other information.
You’ll need 2257 record-keeping documents, a certificate of incorporation, proof of a bank account, personal and business financial and processing history, and a compliant website.
Contacting an adult merchant account provider will help you gather the right materials for the application process.