October 2017 Complaint Roundup: More Dirt On Two Low-Rated Providers

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 September and October. 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.

An Alleged Investigation In Florida…

Scott Randolph’s September 15 comment on our Performance Merchant Alliance review states the following:

Performance Merchant Alliance is rebranding of Payment Systems Corporation and is a dba of Becklaw, LLC and Becksny, LLC. This business located on 20 North Orange Avenue is the same address that Payment Systems Corporation formerly operated at. The company is run by Dean Synder who uses the alias Dean Snyder. Dean Synder was convicted of the federal offense of Defrauding Financial Business on 03/12/2012 in case number 1110708. He is married to the sales manager Lindsay Nolan. Both Lindsay Nolan and Dean Synder worked previously at Bill Heard Auto Group as finance managers and those dealerships were closed for power booking where the value of the vehicle was inflated by adding extra features and options on a car that the vehicle did not have and misrepresenting that fact to a third party lender. Performance Merchant Alliance has their sales representatives do savings analysis’s that misrepresent that the merchant will charged 0% fees on debit cards and 1% on credit cards with a 9 cent swiping fee and no interchange fees. Then the sales representatives have the merchant sign a 4 to 5 year leasing agreement on their credit card machine with monthly fees as high as $300.00 for a machine they could have purchased outright for less than $500.00. The lease agreement is noncancellable. This company is currently being investigated by the Florida Attorney General’s office

Performance Merchant Alliance has recently launched a DBA called Freedom Card Solutions, but this commenter’s claims seem to pertain to both companies. The allegations about Performance Merchant Alliance’s owners and history are interesting, but we cannot verify all of them at this time. What’s more interesting is this commenter’s claim that the company is being investigated by the Florida Attorney General’s office.

We occasionally receive comments stating that everyone from the CFPB to the FTC to the FBI is investigating a processor engaged in illegal conduct. Most of these comments are gross exaggerations that ultimately do not pan out. In this case, however, there are reasons to wonder whether Scott Randolph has accurate information. For one thing, we’ve found numerous merchant complaints related to both Performance Merchant Alliance (currently “F” rated with the BBB) and Freedom Card Solutions, and many of these complaints describe questionable sales tactics by the companies’ sales agents. For another thing, the company has recently launched at least one new DBA, which is something we’ve previously seen providers do in anticipation of brand-tarnishing government litigation (see: Sphyra).

To be clear, we can find nothing to corroborate this commenter’s claims, but that doesn’t mean they are untrue. Regulators are getting more aggressive about holding bad actors accountable in the credit card processing industry, and interested merchants are advised to keep an eye on this situation in the coming months.

…And A Call For An Investigation In Oregon

Barbie Walker’s September 19 comment on our National Paymentech review states the following:

It’s all true. The self proclaimed “evil empire” Andrei Wirth & Joe Mason are scammers. And newly separated from the group, Brandon Skinner. Maybe Skinner got scared that the FTC or the AG is going to catch on to them and he exited stage left…Not sure but, the damage was still done. Look out for these self proclaimed “CEOs” and “Presidents” at National Paymentech aka Alliance Investment Group aka United Alliance Invests aka Sky. Who along with their business are also doing the dirty work for Northern Leasing aka Executech. Northern Leasing has been taken on by the NY Attorney Generals office twice for scamming people. Wirth & Mason completely BAIT & SWITCH. Completely sell reasonable business deals on paper for merchant processing and then neglect to add any of it into the contract, do not follow through with what was sold and leave pages out come signing time so you have no idea their true intentions. Once you find out that everything that was discussed and presented on paper is actually NOT occurring, it’s too late. Your fees are jacked, you’ve got bogus equipment leases with bad equipment, non cancellable leases with companies who have F ratings with the BBB whom you didn’t even know you were signing with b/c pages were left out during signing. You’ll get the run around for months as Andrei Wirth & Joe Mason business emails and numbers and company names switch. Never actually getting a manager or these CEOs on the line for resolution of their scam. BBB, FTC, AG please take these guys down!!

There are a couple of interesting threads in this comment. First off, the reference to the “evil empire” echoes other public accusations that the upper managers of National Paymentech, Riverside Payments, and Securus Payments privately celebrate their companies’ extremely negative reputations among merchants. This falls under the category of general speculation, but the consistency of the reports to this effect are disheartening.

Another intriguing element of this comment is the claim that Executech Lease Group is a related business of Northern Leasing. The two companies share a focus on credit card processing equipment leases, but we have not previously encountered any evidence that Executech and Northern Leasing are partnered in any way. We are unable verify this claim, but we will monitor the situation in case other evidence surfaces.

In the event that Executech and Northern Leasing are indeed one and the same, Barbie’s call for regulatory agencies to “please take these guys down!!” will seem much more legitimate.

Extra-Hidden Fee From WorldPay?

Valery Lanotte’s September 18 comment on our WorldPay review states the following:

It has just come to my attention that since June of 2016 WorldPay been secretly charging me a monthly service fee of $19.99 without my consent. I want all fees refunded and an additional concession to be made in order to reimburse the time I now need to spend rectifying this. I was informed over the phone by Crystal in Georgia that they claim this is a legitimate charge because the contract says “fees can change”. Before I started this service I was notified over the phone that is was a free service that would work just like my previous service (Groupon’s Breadcrumb) A company should not be allowed to change fees without consulting with the customer in advance of the change. They covertly added a service fee that is not trackable or detectable, hoping customers don’t notice, since the platform they provide (terminal.securenet.com) does not contain any information about these fees. There is no way to notice the extra fee looking at a bank statement. I was not provided with the ability to check on fees until today when I called them specifically to ask about the regular per-transaction fees for tax purposes. At this point ONLY, they emailed me access to a SECOND WEBSITE I did not know existed (Merchant Transaction Reporting) that no one would know exists until they ask about fees because it is designed to HIDE these fees. I consider this theft and plan to publicize this as a scam. I would like WorldPay to refund every customer who was not notified or did not notice the sudden fee addition. I would like the BBB to fight for what is right and strongly consider the orchestrated deception that was involved. I am a very small company and would NEVER pay $19.99 for a credit card processing service. WorldPay owes me about $344.59.

Whether or not Valery was properly informed of this fee is impossible for us to determine, but we are sharing this to let WorldPay merchants know about this “Merchant Transaction Reporting” site that lists their monthly service fees through SecureNet. WorldPay is no stranger to complaints about hidden fees and poor customer service, so it is possible that plenty of merchants besides Valery could be paying this fee without knowing it.

One possible explanation for this unconventional billing arrangement is the fact that SecureNet originally existed as a standalone company that was acquired by WorldPay in 2015. WorldPay may not have bothered to fully migrate SecureNet’s billing tools into its own processes, resulting in two separate websites for what is essentially one service. It is unclear, though, whether this is what is really going on.

A True Payment Solutions Employee Speaks

Lorraine Perez’s September 19 comment on our True Payment Solutions review states the following:

Company never pays on time and when they do, your check is always missing money, super unprofessional. Stopped working for them and company was very weird paying out sometimes with cash. Worst place to work, it was advised you get paid salary so every extra time you put into it they don’t pay out. They still have not paid me for hours worked its been over month. This company has no morals and ethics.

True Payment Solutions has received a moderate number of complaints from both merchants and employees, but we’ve chosen to highlight this employee complaint because it is part of a pattern of complaints that seem to be related to the company’s compensation model. The Glassdoor profile for True Payment Solutions mentions common issues such as uncompensated travel, unrealistic performance expectations, and bogus medical benefits, but one complaint describes how “I first got explained this was strictly commission based income and then all of sudden when I let them know I was quitting they offered me hourly pay on top of commissions and bonuses.”

This seems to echo Lorraine’s claim that she was steered toward an hourly compensation model, which is uncommon among independent sales agents in this industry. Lorraine alleges that True Payment Solutions does not pay out overtime hours in this model, but we do not know the specifics of this case. The promise of hourly compensation as a way to retain struggling agents is an uncommon strategy for managing a sales team, and we’ll be curious to see whether it produces any more complaints about True Payment Solutions.

CBD Still A Tricky Industry

Alyssa Tucker’s October 2 comment on our list of Best CBD Merchant Accounts states the following:

I tried going with eMerchantBroker but all the could provide me was an echeck solution and the ability to manually input someone’s credit card info, which doesn’t work for my ecommerce business so I’m currently going the route of hoping I don’t get shut down by a processor that’s not CBD friendly. I don’t like being uncertain of when this may happen.

We have received more than one complaint along these lines, so we feel it’s best to address why some merchants have found that our recommended options for CBD merchant accounts are unable to serve them. In general, all processors are having trouble opening accounts for CBD merchants at this time. As a result, the options for processing CBD payments are extremely limited and usually in a legal gray area. Major financial institutions want nothing to do with CBD or legal marijuana right now, and only the most stable, lucrative merchants are worth the risk for credit card processors.

However, the regulatory climate around CBD products is constantly shifting, and today’s “no” could be tomorrow’s “yes.” Alyssa has chosen to accept payments through a provider hostile to her business type, and we wish her the best of luck in avoiding account deactivation. For our part, we will continue to seek out and recommend established high risk processors that are most likely to be up to speed on safe, viable solutions for CBD merchants.

A Quick Clarification About Chargebacks

Roland Martino’s September 18 comment on our American Express Merchant Services review states the following:

Not a benefit to small business. Cardholder is too easily able to do chargebacks without contacting the company first. We will be declining future acceptance and understand why fewer metchants want to accept. Goodbye AMEX!

Roland’s frustration with chargebacks is echoed by hundreds of merchants on our site, but we want to emphasize that this issue is not specific to American Express. The truth is that all credit card issuers allow their cardholders to initiate chargebacks without contacting the company first. There are plenty of reasons why merchants may not want to accept American Express cards, but you are no more likely to experience a chargeback through American Express than you are through Visa or MasterCard.

For more information on how chargebacks work, see our article on How To Fight Chargebacks.

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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We are committed to ensuring the accountability of credit card processors by bringing transparency to their business practices. Our primary objective is to safeguard North American businesses from unscrupulous processors that impose substantial rate markups, unjustifiable fees, and exploitative contracts that result in annual losses of billions of dollars for small business owners.

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