November 2017 Complaint Roundup: New Fees From Vantiv And OpenEdge

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 October and November. 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.

Vantiv Adds A New Fee…

Mr Tom's November 9 comment on our Vantiv review states the following:

Vantiv added a new charge to my bill call BizShield for $19.99 per month. I never asked for this service yet was told by them that I was automatically subscribed. for the service.Crooks!

BizShield is a reputation management service from Womply, an online marketing company. This particular fee is very similar to a $29.99 Womply fee that Flagship Merchant Services started charging its merchants in January. In Flagship's case, merchants were automatically enrolled in a free 60-day trial of Womply's affiliate marketing program, and if they failed to opt out of the trial, they were assessed a fee for the service each month going forward. Here, Mr Tom does not mention a trial period, but it's possible that such a program was applied to his account without his knowledge.

Fees like this one highlight the importance of checking your statement every month for charges that you do not recognize. Many providers will provide advance warning of fees on the last page of your monthly statements, meaning that you will not hear about a Womply-style fee unless you check your statement diligently. By now, Vantiv and Womply have both been brought to our attention for adding poorly disclosed fees to merchants' bills, so merchants who deal with either company should be wary.

…And So Does OpenEdge

Jon's November 2 comment on our OpenEdge review states the following:

While we haven’t had any problems with the service itself (downage, outages, etc), yesterday I looked over our bill closely and found several fees that were not disclosed to us, and added to bills that were set to autopay. I called and spoke to customer service and this is how they were explained:

1) Infrastructure Upgrade Fee: $200 (per location)
– “We needed to upgrade our infrastructure to handle the changing chip technologies” So you added $200 onto both of my bills without telling me?

2) PCI NON COMPLIANCE FEE: $29.99 (per location)
– This has been billed MONTHLY. “You are being charged this because whoever setup your account never filled out the online questionnaire to make you PCI compliant” (Lie; never informed of this)

3) PCI PROGRAM FEE: $24.75 (per location; quarterly)
-“This is a fee to use our online partner’s program to become PCI compliant. You can use any company to do this, but if you use our partner, its already billed and paid for by this fee.”

I want anyone reading this to really understand what I just wrote. OpenEdge is charging me a monthly fee for being NON PCI COMPLIANT and a quarterly fee to be apart of a program that can make me PCI COMPLIANT, though I’m not.

A fee so you can get compliant, a fee because you aren’t compliant and never being told anything about PCI Compliance…. This company has taken $1000’s from us in these fees in just over 2 years…


The combination of being charged a PCI compliance fee and a PCI non-compliance fee is a strange quirk of the credit card processing industry, but it's not especially rare. What's more interesting here is the “Infrastructure Upgrade Fee,” which appears to pass the costs of OpenEdge's internal EMV-related upgrades down to merchants. We've never heard of processors incurring infrastructure costs related to EMV, and the concept doesn't really make sense. The EMV switch simply mandates that merchants process payments through EMV-compatible terminals. There's no reason for it to generate $200 in new costs per merchant location for a processor.

It's possible that OpenEdge swapped out the merchant's current terminal for an EMV-compatible upgrade, but that wouldn't really fall under “infrastructure.” This fee is quite high and is poorly explained. OpenEdge merchants have every right to inquire as to what exactly they're being charged for.

A Retail Merchant Services Merchant Gets A Win

PaulaB's October 20 comment on our Retail Merchant Services review finishes a saga that began in August:

9/6/17: Hi,
I signed the contract on 2nd Aug 17. The machine was installed on 29th Aug. I have just received the first invoice. Charges are completely different to what I was sold and there are of course the hidden charges. I have emailed the rep and asked to terminate my contract immediately as we have been mis-sold. I am waiting for a response. What do you advise? Thank you.

9/20/17: Just an update: Trading standards got in touch and I completed a form explaining what they had done. They said they were taking individual cases to RMS so I await anything further. I also sent a letter to the CEO at RMS. RMS phoned yesterday to say they would collect the card machine and cancel the contract but there will be a charge. She didn’t say how much. They took £42 out of our account last week but no invoice provided. She talked me through the charges yesterday. I have asked again for a copy of the invoice and a copy of the contract which I have never seen. I am still waiting. Shall I keep trading standards informed? My next action is the write to them to dispute the £42. £15 of this was for rolls for the machine which is being returned. So I want a credit for that. The next will be disputing the cancellation charge. In my view they are in breach of contract as they didn’t tell me about some of the fees. Any advice? Thanks

9/22:17: […] I have told them I won’t be paying as I believe them to be in breach of contract. I have cancelled the DD and asked my colleague to put a block on them. I did send my letter to trading standards too but heard nothing further. I’ll update you as I hear more.

10/20/17: Update: I sent their machine back to them, I sent them a letter stating I would be closing my account due to them being in breach of contract – not honouring quoted prices and hidden charges. I stated that as they were in breach of contract I would not be paying any cancellation charges.

I have received a letter from RMS confirming that my membership is cancelled and the charge is £0.00. So as far as I am concerned that is that – I am happy with the outcome. Hope this helps some of you.

Retail Merchant Services has accumulated complaints at a steady rate since we first reviewed it in 2014, and most of these complaints do not have a positive outcome. As a very large, UK-based Elavon reseller, RMS often seems content to repeatedly charge dissatisfied merchants until they cancel in frustration, at which point RMS collects its sizable cancellation fee.

PaulaB, however, seems to have gotten better results. Her efforts were diligent: retain all invoices, contact Trading Standards, request a copy of the original contract, dispute any inappropriate fees, cancel direct deposit, block RMS's access to her account, and submit a letter stating that she is canceling due to breach of contract. It's unclear why RMS waived her cancellation fee when it enforces so many others, but her successful process may show other RMS merchants how to get out of breached contracts without penalty.

What's In A Sign?

Amanda's October 20 comment on our Stripe review states the following:

I’m a small business owner and integrated Stripe as my payment processor on my website to book clients. The policy of NO REFUNDS was clearly listed on the checkout page where people enter their credit card information but Stripe didn’t help me (their customer) and allowed the credit card to refund the charge PLUS charged me a chargeback fee. There should be consequences when people decide to purchase a NON-REFUNDABLE ticket and then don’t show to the event and later decide they should be able to dispute the charge but Stripe just helped promote entitlement and proved that they do not care about small businesses. I help start-up new businesses and will most definitely be letting everyone know that Stripe should NOT be used as their processor.

Also, they have NO phone customer service – the only way to get in contact with someone about an issue is through EMAIL. This is a red flag.

Chargebacks remain one of the most commonly reported frustrations among Stripe users, due in part to the company's decision not to provide live customer support. In this case, Amanda thought that she was protecting herself from chargebacks by posting her no-refunds policy on her website's checkout page. This is an easy mistake to make, because few people understand the intricacies of the chargeback process.

Cardholders can initiate a chargeback for almost any reason, and their card-issuing bank is the only entity that they must speak to in order to get the ball rolling. As a result, neither Stripe nor its merchants have any say in whether a customer files a chargeback. What Stripe and its merchants can control, however, is whether that chargeback gets contested or reversed. In some cases, a clearly posted no-refunds policy can successfully reverse a chargeback, but a merchant will need to undergo a fairly complicated process in order to dismiss it. Stripe is not known for being especially helpful during this process, but it also isn't fair to accuse Stripe of being the only responsible entity here. You can learn more about how to fight chargebacks here.

A Salesperson's Word

Thomas Troyer's October 18 comment on our CardConnect review states the following:

If I could give these guys a negative rating I would. The sales person altered the contract after he left my business. He lined out the early termination fee since I was going to be closing my business then changed it and they company still wants to charge it to me and won’t back down from it. Nothing but crooks.

There are two red flags in Thomas's situation that merchants commonly do not pick up on. For one thing, any physical alterations that a sales agent makes to the language of a contract should never be trusted. You should not expect a processor to honor any strikethroughs or margin notes written by an agent, and you're always well within your rights to request a new contract that outlines the modified terms. Anything modified once can be easily modified again.

Another, subtler issue to watch for is the fact that an agent signed Thomas up for a merchant account with the knowledge that he planned to close his business. Most agents rely on residual payments to build their wealth, and a soon-to-be-shuttered business isn't going to produce any meaningful earnings for most agents. That means that a savvy agent will need to earn some money on the account through other means, such as an early termination fee or non-cancellable lease. In cases like this one, merchants can benefit from considering what their agent is getting out of the agreement.

A Quick Clarification About Chargebacks

Glenn Welt's October 30 comment on our iPayment review states the following:

iPayment,Inc. d/b/a has given me THE WORST card processing experience I’ve ever had over the past 52 years that I’ve owned many businesses.

I provided EVERY single bit of information Nicholas Iacozza requested during the application process. I was assured that I could immediately process charges up to $2500 each and $20,000/month. Two days after my account was setup, I received an email from Jenny Newman at which said “SUSPENDED BATCH ALERT: IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED.” If Ms. Newman worked for me, she’d be fired instantly because NOTHING (not 1 word) in her email told what I needed to do to ‘unsuspend’ the one and only $1400 charge! In fact her email said ‘please provide the following items by fax or email’ but listed absolutely NOTHING (space was 100% blank) !

I now blame myself for ever contacting these incompetents. I was “suckered” by a website that appears to be a legit reviewer of car processors but is actually an ad for Flagship and which they rate as being #1 and #2. In other words I now realize that FAKE news suckered me wasting hours of my time and have moved on to a LEGIT card processor!

Untrustworthy merchant account review websites are still very common in this industry, and iPayment, Flagship, and seem to find their way to the top of those sites fairly often. We won't name any names, but we encourage you to do your research about any review website you come across. Does the site explain its rating methodology? Does it have a standing comment policy? Does it provide a large number of reviews and a wide range of grades, or does it appear to be hyping just one or two companies without mentioning any others?

Always remember that on some level, every reviewer brings their own preferences and assumptions to their reviews. You should always trust your own judgment and leave no stone unturned.

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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