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MPs call for crackdown on pre-paid credit cards

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The government has been urged by MPs to tighten controls on pre-paid credit cards, with claims they help child abusers avoid detection online.

Labour MP Geraint Davies said the cards were routinely used by paedophiles to hide their identities as he proposed a bill on Wednesday to force credit card companies to act.

He wants Visa and Mastercard to be liable when pre-paid card are used to access to abuse material, which would probably lead to their withdrawal or strict identity controls.

"Until 2002, users simply submitted their credit and debit card details online to download images of abuse from the web," Davies said.

"These days the new route for users is to hide their identity by using pre-paid credit cards to download images. These pre-paid cards are available to adults and children for £100 a time at service stations and high street retailers without the need to provide proof of identity."

Davies' private member's Bill - introduced under what is know as a Ten Minute Rule Motion - drew support across the Commons, with backing from Tories including Edward Leigh, the chairman of the Public Accounts Commitee.

Under current legislation, Davies said, no proof of identity is required to purchase a pre-paid card worth up to £100.

"That is why Parliament should back the provisions in my Bill to make credit and debit card companies liable for penalties when their cards are used to download images of abuse," he said.

Davies acknowledged that Visa and Mastercard had taken action following a police crackdown on online child pornography in 2002 to monitor and report illegal use of conventional credit cards, but said abusers have migrated to pre-paid.

"The credit card companies are not taking pre-emptive action," he charged.

"There is lots of money involved and no appetite for voluntary industry action."

"I hope that the Government will listen and adopt the provisions into mainstream legislation."

Ten Minute Rule Motions are typically used to draw government attention rather than in expectation of becoming law. ®

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