Prominent online payment system PayPal has agreed to pay compensation to customers worth a total of US$25 million (£16.1 million). The payment processing giant has received these penalties in the US for deception of customers.
PayPal, which has long been owned by eBay but recently became a separate company, agreed to make the compensation payments in order to settle the legal dispute at hand, but has not admitted to being at fault. The agreement must receive the approval of a judge before it is made legally binding.
According to a US government watchdog, the company is guilty of a number of offences including failing to properly handle disputes over bills. Most prominently, PayPal has been condemned for adding new members to a credit scheme, which is functionally similar to a credit card, without informing them that they were being signed up to this service.
The scheme in question is called PayPal Credit. It is a method of deferred payment, allowing people to pay for things within their available credit limit rather than with actual money and then repay over the following months, with interest charged monthly. In other words, it works very much like a credit card. However, it is exclusively available as a funding source for PayPal payments and therefore has no need of a physical card.
The accusation is that the company made signing up for PayPal Credit as well as for the standard payment processing service the default option for newly-joining members, and failed to make it clear that they were doing so.
As a result, according to US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray, “Tens of thousands of consumers who were attempting to enrol in a regular PayPal account or make an online purchase were signed up for the credit product without realising it.” Cordray went on to claim that many customers only found out that they had been signed up for Paypal Credit after being charged fees for late repayment or even receiving calls from debt collectors.
While the issue surrounding PayPal Credit has perhaps been the most prominent part of this case, it is certainly not the only accusation levelled at the company. Other wrongful practices of which PayPal has been accused include failing to properly post payments, mishandling customer disputes both with merchants and with the payment processing company itself, and failing to make good on advertised promises to provide credit towards purchases.
A statement from the company said that “PayPal Credit takes consumer protection very seriously,” and that “Our focus is on ease of use, clarity and providing high-quality products that are useful to consumers and are in compliance with applicable laws.”
UK customers, the company insists, have not been affected by the problems taking place in the US.