December 2018 Complaint Roundup: Unified Payments and the Russian Mafia

What Are Other Merchants Saying?

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© Depositphotos – James Steidl
Here at CPO, we review every comment that we receive from our readers, and sometimes we see merchants mention a topic that isn't covered in our reviews. To help you stay on top of the trends and issues in the credit card processing industry, we've gathered the following merchant complaints posted to CPO during November and December. If you would like to respond or add your thoughts to any of these comments, please follow the links to the original comments and reply to them directly, or leave a comment of your own below the appropriate company's review.

Unified Payments Legal Concerns

On November 14, we received an email from a merchant who “was considering doing business with Discover Data, a Sub-Brand of
Unified Payments,” until the merchant realized they “would be dealing with a semi-famous crook.” The full text of the email can be seen below:

I was considering doing business with Discover Data, a Sub-Brand of Unified Payments, a registered partner of Visa, and it was very disturbing to find the articles below. I realized I would be dealing with a semi-famous crook. That does not seem to be ethical or safe considering that he has access to people's personal information.

Please address this as you see appropriate.

Thank you,

[CONTACT NAME REDACTED – ed.] (Inmate Search: Inmate # 95127-004)

The concerned merchant's research checks out. It appears that Unified Payments operates a DBA or subsidiary called “Discover Data” which shares the same address as Unified Payments. Discover Data's vice president is Albert Takhalov, the person mentioned in these news articles and jail records. In 2013, Albert Takhalov was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “directing a bunch of ‘bar girls’ to seduce and swindle customers at a string of Russian-style lounges” in his role as “a credit-card processor for [the] clubs.” In July 2016, however, the conviction was overturned by an appeals court due to a procedural error by the original judge.

Both articles refer to Oleg “Alec” Simchuk as the ringleader of the operation and an admitted Russian mafioso. We have not found any evidence to link Albert Takhalov and Oleg Simchuk beyond the events described in these articles, but the mere existence of a previous connection to the Russian mafia is important information for any potential clients of Unified Payments. Merchant account providers with spotty legal histories have a habit of ending up on our list of the worst merchant accounts.

Deceptive Merchant Bancard Network Contract

On November 19, we received another email from a concerned merchant regarding Merchants Bancard Network. The merchant's email states the following:

Here is the fee page and you can see that under early termination the fee is zero but in section 9 at the end of the paragraphs it states that I owe the money fees listed. I paid over $960.

The merchant's documentation can be seen here. As the merchant claimed, it does indeed list “$0” in the “Early Termination Fee” box. However, it also contains the following language in Section 9 lower on the page:

In the event that Client terminates or breaches the terms of this Agreement before the end of the initial three (3) year term, Client shall be obligated to immediately pay Acquirer or its representative, as liquidated damages, an early termination fee in addition to any other monthly fees in the Merchant Processing Agreement for the remaining term of the Agreement.

The merchant claims to have been charged over $960 for cancellation, which indicates that even a clear “$0” in the “Early Termination Fee” section of the Merchants Bancard Network contract isn’t enough to protect merchants from a very large cancellation penalty. Given the degree of deception here, all merchants should watch out for this tactic. One easy way to dodge tricks like this is to always check the five places where processors hide fees in your contract.

Vantiv's Exploding ETF

Cathy Parker's November 23 comment on our Vantiv review states the following:

I work in the industry. These are my findings with accounts who wanted to leave Vantiv. People need to know that Vantiv doesn’t just have a $295 cancellation fee. Merchants would gladly pay that to get away from them. If you are processing with Vantiv using a POS system and are doing over $50,000 a year your contact will probably have a loss of business clause and can cost the merchant from $12,000 on 50K a month processing to $220,000 on $18 million a month processing. They also have a clause stating you must give 120 day to 180 days notice that you are going to cancel and if you don’t it auto renews!!! Be aware and read the contract and ask to see the term of agreement. They seldom ever produce these.

Although Cathy is clearly a Vantiv competitor, we have no reason to believe that the information she has provided is inaccurate. Vantiv's merger with WorldPay in early 2018 marked the union of two “C” rated merchant account providers on CPO, both of which have generally negative reviews of their pricing and contract terms. The “loss of business” clause sounds a lot like a liquidated damages clause, but the numbers that Cathy has reported are far higher than we've come to expect from any provider.

If you are a Vantiv merchant who is facing the situation Cathy describes, we recommend taking the steps to cancel your merchant account without paying a fee.

An Update on Talus Payments

John's November 15 complaint on our Talus Payments review states the following:

What’s funny is they just updated the company name to from Talus Payments to “Talus Pay” with a new logo and website. This company will never stop running their reps around with tablets so that the clients cannot really know their rates.

Next up, new and improved “Tal Pay”.

It is unlikely that merchants will be deceived by this relatively minor name change, but we have highlighted this information due to Talus's corporate history. Talus Payments was once one of the lowest-rated processors on CPO, but it has made efforts in the past year to improve its reputation within the industry. Its adjusted name may simply be part of this rebranding effort, but we will continue monitoring the company to keep you up to speed.

ABC Global's Curious Testimonials

We received the following three positive reviews of ABC Global Systems in the month of November:

I own Zucker Security Pros in Asbury Park N.J. we have been working with ABC Global systems for a very long time now and we are proud to be able to get some of the lowest rates for accepting credit cards. The people are always down to earth and very helpful with all questions and concerns.

We met the folks over at ABC Global Systems at a business trade show for our store The Cooking Appliance Factory in Elizabeth N.J. I must say from the day we met till today we have had such great service and some of the best rates for our credit card machine. Thanks to everyone in Tech support for making this such a easy company to work with for my credit card processing needs.

We own a day camp In Staten Island NYC, Fun Days Day camps. We use ABC Global for credit card processing and I must say they do a great job saving us money and time on credit card processing. Thanks for everything and we look forward to working well into the future with your company.

Interestingly, these three comments were posted from the same IP address, meaning that Sandy, Nat, and Yael must have driven all the way from Asbury Park, Elizabeth, and Staten Island to post their glowing testimonials from a common location. And these weren't the only ABC Global Systems testimonials to show this pattern. Four other satisfied merchants posted from a different shared IP address in October and November:

Been using ABC Global Systems at my empanadas spot On Saratoga ave in Brooklyn NYC for about one year. No complaints so far from us!! The machines are fast and fund next day.

Our Private Lawn Care Store Green Thumb Uni in Westport NY is so happy with the service provided by ABC Global systems. We had issues in the past with other providers and needed a company that really cared about us the help us save. ABC global gave us free terminals, free tech support and the best rates today.

One thing I like about Using ABC Global Systems card processing for our pop up shop business is the fact that they give us free equipment. Our Pop Up Extravaganza Store headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ saves month to month and always get to speak to a live person about problems or issues. Its always a good thing when we look at our statement. No surprises.

We use ABC Global Systems here at our Chop shop in Lowell MA. We notice that our rates never increase without our Consent and we always are able to get our questions answered very quickly. One time we had a connection problem with our terminal, Before you know it, ABC Global Systems sent us a replacement. Free.

There are more where these came from.

We consider it highly unlikely that all of these merchants who own different businesses in different states would post their testimonials from the same IP address. The most charitable explanation is that someone at ABC Global Systems has posted these testimonials on behalf of their satisfied customers. The least charitable explanation is that ABC Global Systems is falsifying testimonials or has hired a reputation management firm to flood the internet with fake positive reviews. Without any way to be sure of these reviews' origins, we simply caution merchants to take any ABC Global Systems reviews they come across with a grain of salt.

Have you had an experience that you would like to share with these commenters? Reply to their comments and you may be featured in next month's complaint roundup!

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