UPDATE: 7/24/2013: – Pipeline Data filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2012. Its assets were purchased by Calpian Commerce in March 2013.
Pipeline Data Processing, Inc. (pipelinedata.com) was incorporated in 1997 and operates its main headquarters out of Alpharetta, Georgia. The company appears to be owned by, or is a subsidiary of, Cynergy Data and claims to service over 40,000 merchants as of 2006. Pipeline primarily specializes in providing processing services for other third party merchant services sales organizations.
Pipeline Data, Inc. is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank of Chicago, Illinois, Meridian Bank of Devon, Pennsylvania, and Wells Fargo Bank of Walnut Creek, California as its Acquiring Banks.
Sales & Marketing
Pipeline Data does not have its own sales channel and does not appear to market merchant accounts directly. Instead, it relies on several wholly owned subsidiaries and outside partners to market and sell its merchant accounts and credit card processing services. These partners and subsidiaries include SecurePay.com, Charge.com, Northern Merchant Services, World Products, Inc. (aka: AIRCHARGE) and possibly many more. Pipeline also employs a sales force of independent, commission-only sales agents. It appears that various other Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs) resell Pipeline Data merchant accounts as well.
Pipeline does not appear to use any deceptive marketing or sales tactics itself; however, this reviewer has found during other provider reviews that some of its subsidiaries do use misleading tactics. Since it is our belief that the parent company is ultimately responsible for its subsidiaries, Pipeline is currently earning a poor rating in this section.
Costs & Contract
The majority of Pipeline’s merchant accounts appear to be sold through resellers, partners and its own subsidiaries. This means that Pipeline sets base rates and fees (AKA: wholesale costs) and then the fees are marked up for a profit by the different sales organizations that sell the accounts. Due to this, the costs and fees of a Pipeline merchant account will likely vary widely depending on the agent who set up the account and by each merchant.
Complaints & Service
Customer service of Pipeline accounts appears to be handled in one of two ways: first, some of the independent resellers handle account maintenance and service in-house, or second, some outsource the customer service directly to Pipeline’s internal support, which appears to be handled by Cynergy Data. This can be confusing since blame for problems can be tossed around and it may be unclear which company is servicing the merchant.
This processor has a high number of complaints filed in various complaint forums. A few angry merchants have even dedicated entire websites to bashing the company. The majority of the online complaints are centered on undisclosed PCI compliance fees, which range from $75-$195 per year, and the withholding of funds to establish “rolling reserves” without any notification to the merchant.
What is particularly unsettling to this reviewer are the numerous complaints of Pipeline withholding thousands of dollars from merchants for up to 180 days without giving the merchant any explanation. Some merchants even complained of the reserves being withdrawn from linked checking accounts, causing overdraws. Numerous other merchants complained of undisclosed fees being directly withdrawn from their checking accounts unexpectedly. Some merchants reported closing the linked checking accounts to avoid further withdrawals and subsequently received harassing phone calls from Pipeline representatives trying to collect. The resounding theme among nearly all complaints is that Pipeline provided “poor” or “awful” customer service.
Lastly, many of the complaints about Pipeline also name one of its partners or subsidiaries as part of the problem. Merchants are encouraged to research any company that is providing a Pipeline merchant account prior to signing any documents.
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Pipeline has made some slight improvements in its Better Business Bureau report since the last update of this review. The company has raised its grade from an “F” to a “D” and has lowered its complaint count from the previous three years from 186 to 149. The bulk of the complaints are regarding billing and collections issues, and problems with service. Of the 149 complaints, 132 have been resolved to the merchants’ satisfaction.
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About Phillip Parker
Phillip Parker is a former merchant services agent turned small business advocate and the author of "Fee Sweep," which teaches merchants how to dramatically lower their processing rates, eliminate junk fees, and avoid fine-print scams. He founded CardPaymentOptions.com to help merchants enact positive change in the credit card processing industry. Schedule a Consultation with PhillipSchedule a Consultation with Phillip
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