Established in 2000, Leaders Merchant Services (leadersmerchantservices.com) is a merchant account provider that serves businesses of most sizes. The company specializes in retail, home-based, mail-order, and Internet accounts, enabling merchants to process “swiped” card-present transactions as well as “keyed” card-not-present transactions. Leaders is located at 725 Via Alondra, Camarillo, California 93012, and is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California. Brandon Wolfe is the company’s president and CEO.
- Sales & Marketing: Leaders Merchant Services hires independent sales agents and has received a moderate number of complaints about its sales practices.
- Costs & Contract: Leaders Merchant Services offers a three-year contract with an early termination fee of up to $350.
- Complaints & Service: Leaders Merchant Services has received more than 200 public complaints.
- BBB Rating: Leaders Merchant Services has an “A+” rating with the Better Business Bureau and has received 154 complaints in the past three years.
- Rates & Fees: How Merchants Got The Best Rates With Leaders Merchant Services
Sales & Marketing
Key Points - Sales & Marketing
|Employs Independent Resellers||Yes|
|Advertises Deceptive Rates||Yes|
|Discloses All Important Terms||No|
Leaders Merchant Services appears to utilize telemarketing and independent sales agents to market its services. The company likely also maintains an inside sales staff and engages in traditional advertising, but most merchant complaints describe a telemarketing/independent agent approach. This practice seems to have resulted in numerous complaints (on this website and elsewhere) citing nondisclosure of fees and aggressive sales tactics by agents. The primary source of complaints, though, appears to be the use of deceptive rate quoting by agents and in the company’s official marketing materials.
At the time of an earlier update, the home page for Leaders Merchant Services prominently quoted “rates as low as 0.35%” (you can see an example of an older Leaders rate quote on the left). As of this update, the company is advertising “Rates from 0.15%” in Google search results. These advertisements make no mention of the higher “Mid-Qualified” and “Non-Qualified” rates that merchants will pay for the vast majority of their transactions. In addition, the company’s “Rates” page previously offered an explanation of Qualified, Mid-Qualified, and Non-Qualified rates and stated that “the rate you should receive most frequently” is the Qualified rate. For most merchants, this is simply not true. We consider this type of rate quoting to be deceptive because it is likely to give merchants an unrealistic expectation of the rates they will actually pay. Many publicly available complaints confirm this to be precisely the case, as merchants report their sales agents quoting them the Qualified rate and never mentioning other possible rates before signing. The company has since removed these quotes from its website, but customer complaints continue to cite hidden fees and unexpectedly high rates.
Finally, there is some evidence that positive reviews of Leaders Merchant Services have been copied-and-pasted on this site and elsewhere, possibly by fake accounts or reputation management firms. Merchants are advised to take this into consideration when searching for Leaders Merchant Services reviews.
Leaders Merchant Services Marketing Example
Costs & Contract
Key Points - Costs & Contract
|Early Termination Fee||$250-$350|
|PCI Compliance Fee||$129 Per Year|
|Equipment Lease Terms||Variable|
The standard Leaders Merchant Services contract (available in part below) is a three-year agreement with a yearly PCI compliance fee of $129, a monthly service charge of $7.95, a $40 monthly non-compliance charge, and an early termination fee of either $350 or $250 depending on when a merchant cancels. Some Leaders Merchant Services fees appear to vary—a few merchants report a monthly minimum between $20-25—but most of these figures are consistent across all complaints. As noted above, merchants also report paying higher rates on their swiped transactions than they were originally quoted, often in excess of 5%. Because the company relies on an independent team of sales agents, it is likely that some contract terms are negotiable and subject to change depending on the agent servicing the account. Although many merchants report dissatisfaction with these contract terms, they are unfortunately more or less standard for the industry. Because the company appears to do a poor job of communicating these terms to its clients, we assign Leaders a “C” in this section. See the Leaders Merchant Services Program Guide.
Complaints & Service
Key Points - Complaints & Service
|Total Online Complaints||200+|
|Live Customer Support||Unknown|
|Most Common Complaint||Hidden Fees|
In the time since this review’s original publication in April 2012, it has received over 130 comments, the overwhelming majority of which are complaints about Leaders Merchant Services. In addition, we were able to locate over 100 complaints filed against the company on other consumer protection websites. These complaints appear to have been posted with regularity over the past three years. Common themes expressed by complainants include misrepresentation of rates, nondisclosure of fees, unreachable customer service representatives, unauthorized debiting of accounts, and funds held without notification. Even for a large, growing company, this is a higher-than-average complaint rate. The company’s website lists a dedicated phone line and an email form, although it’s unclear whether the phone number goes to customer support or to sales.
Key Points - BBB
|Product & Service Complaints||58|
|Billing & Collection Complaints||79|
|Advertising & Sales Complaints||16|
|Guarantee & Warranty Complaints||1|
Note: We have adjusted this company’s BBB rating according to our own standards. To better understand why we adjust BBB ratings, please see our Rating Criteria.
Leaders has been an accredited business of the Better Business Bureau since 2004 and has an “A+” grade despite the fact that the company’s BBB page is showing 154 complaints in the last 36 months. Sixteen of these complaints were related to advertising/sales, 79 were due to billing/collection, and 58 had to do with product or service problems. The complaint resolution log shows 42 complaints as satisfactorily resolved and 112 complaints as having been resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant. The company also has 29 negative reviews and eight positive testimonials filed with the BBB. In light of these figures, we are adjusting the BBB’s rating to a “D.”
About Phillip Parker
Hi, I’m Phillip and I’m disgusted by the state of credit card processing in the U.S. and abroad. I believe that the industry has been overrun by people who engage in fraud and deception in order to steal money from hard working business owners. I’ve made it my mission to expose the companies and individuals who engage in predatory marketing, pricing, and contracts, or just provide terrible service. Along with uncovering the bad guys, I’ve also discovered the good guys who do stand out from the status quo. CPO is a website where you will find ratings and reviews of these companies along with advice on how to save money and which service providers consider. Together we can move the industry in a positive direction. If you would like to help support my work, please checkout “Fee Sweep” my eGuide to getting the lowest possible fees when accepting card payments. If you haven’t heard of “interchange” this advice will save you hundreds, even thousands, in processing fees.Schedule a Consultation with Phillip
Related: Phillip’s Top All-Purpose Merchant Account Picks
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