PayPal isn’t always your friend

by , Senior Money Researcher Money 12 May 2013
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It calls itself ‘fast, safe and simple’, but according to some users, PayPal isn’t living up to these qualities – especially when it comes to getting hold of your cash.

A pound symbol made of ice

If you’ve flogged old clothes, books or electrical goods on eBay, chances are you’ll have used PayPal.

PayPal is convenient – you simply set up an account using your email address, link it to your chosen bank account and withdraw your money when necessary. But there have been cases of PayPal freezing your account and withholding your funds.

Frustrating security processes

Frozen accounts seem to be one of the most common PayPal complaints among consumers. Say you sell an expensive item, like a designer handbag, on eBay. You see the money ping into your PayPal account, go to withdraw it and… your account’s been frozen.

PayPal has probably viewed this as a ‘possible high-risk transaction’, so has frozen your account while it investigates. It can withhold your funds for 180 days and, what’s worse, your friends and family may also have their accounts frozen, because they are associated with yours. It’s a PayPal lockdown.

Even if you correctly verify your details (one of the security measures PayPal may take) and provide evidence of postage, PayPal may still hang onto your money. And when you ring up to speak to someone about it, you’re faced with a robot who offers no help in resolving your dispute.

Many PayPal users are driven to taking legal action. But should anyone have to resort to such drastic measures, just to get what’s rightfully theirs?

Blacklisted despite positive feedback

Unusual spikes in payments aren’t the only reason for a frozen PayPal account. The company also cites not paying your seller fees, your payment information being out of date and negative buyer feedback.

But even sellers with positive feedback can see their accounts frozen. According to an article in the Independent, one seller had a 99.7% positive feedback rating, but their account was frozen for falling below seller standards.

In another example, this time referenced by the Telegraph, a couple who ran an online retailer through PayPal, found that 2% of their transactions had received negative feedback. They say their account was frozen and they are now claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

It’s worth remembering that PayPal does allow consumers to sell items without the usual bureaucracy that comes with other institutions. But if it’s sending people into financial hardship, perhaps a rethink of its strict security measures might be in order.

Has your PayPal account ever been frozen? Did you get your money back?

26 comments

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NFH

PayPal is a brand I really don’t trust very much or find very useful. Its “Buyer Protection” finishes a long time before one’s statutory rights, which is no good if there is a problem many months after a purchase. Even worse, purchases via PayPal also lack Section 75 protection.

Most PayPal transactions could be effected without any cost via bank transfer. Don’t forget PayPal originated in the United States, the only developed country whose banking system lacks an infrastructure for low value bank transfers. PayPal lacks this raison d’être in most other countries.

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MICHAEL FLYNN

I gave up on Pay Pal a long time ago, as I also did on trying to get back money owed to me.
they never responded ,very frustrating and disappointing Mik Flynn

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Daz

My account was blocked apparently due to a buyer from eBay making a complaint against me. I never received a specific reason as to why I was blocked. Also in their terms it stated that they (PayPal) are now monitoring this account until they deem its suitable not. This meant that I had a lock on my money for a period of weeks that I was unable to withdraw. I’ve never received a reason as to why all this really happened. So now, no monies are kept in the account. I wouldn’t use PayPal at all if I didn’t need to. Internet sites seem to be using PP more & more. Good luck!

Thanks for sharing this, Daz. It seems like PayPal’s reasons for blocking people can be quite broad – but simply saying that a buyer complained about you doesn’t feel like enough information. It can be very frustrating when you can’t access your money!

You’re right about more and more websites using PayPal, though – only the other day when I was buying gig tickets I saw that PayPal was an option, which was news to me! I think more retailers are offering PayPal as a way of paying in-store, too.

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Paul B

I was told that Paypal had introduced a reserve of 40% for 90 days on all transactions for my private home rental. That have refused to discuss the arrangement despite full disclosure of my business details. I am now working to move all my business elsewhere. After 4 years of trading with not a single complaint this makes no sense to me.

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Kim Broadley

I had a fraudster take over 1k from my paypal account (but as it was linked to my bank account if also affected that) paypal refused to refund even though I proved it was due to fraudulent activity. In the meantime my bank balance is getting more into an overdraft and I am being charged overdraft fees. The bank refused to block my account so the fraudsters could continue to take money and paypal wouldnt refund.
I had to contact several organisations for advice and eventually threatened paypal with legal action. They eventually refunded my money into my paypal account ( which they then blocked) which stopped me having access to the money. This meant I couldnt transfer it to my bank accont and my debt wasnt paid off. Paypal then waited another two months to unblock my account in which time I had debt collectors sending my final notice letters and one letter from a court instrucring me to ger in touch about the debt.
Paypal never apologised. Never did anything to help. They didnt believe me when I said it was feaudulent. They didnt care. I now dont trust banks, and have to withdraw any money as soon as it gkes in!!

Hi Kim – wow, that sounds terrible! A lot of Which? members have complained that it’s really difficult to make a complaint to PayPal when things go wrong, which sounds like what’s happened here.

I’ve read tales of many consumers being forced to take legal action because PayPal seem unable or unwilling to help them, so it does seem like a real problem. When I spoke to a PayPal spokesperson they told me they were going to start improving their customer service, so we will have to wait and see what happens there. However, withdrawing your money as soon as it goes in sounds sensible!

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David Cox

One of the reasons we were given for them blocking our account was that we were withdrawing money as soon as it came in instead of letting it sit on our account waiting to be frozen! We were simply withdrawing funds to our bank account at the end of each business day. We used this money to make more product and to pay for advertising it so that we would sell some more. Hardly a new business concept is it? And the more we sell, the more revenue goes to er…PayPal…!

That’s really interesting, David – I wasn’t aware that withdrawing your funds was a reason for blocking your account. Sounds sensible to me, given that so many members have complained to us about account freezing!

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David Cox

I run a small business selling a weight loss product. It was brought to the brink of collapse last month by PayPal freezing our account. We sell a weight loss product to the supermarkets and via our web site http://www.bootcampfoods.com and use PayPal as our exclusive payment gateway.

We had called them to explain we were taking our first print ad in a national magazine (Men’s Fitness) and they should expect a spike in sales. We were assured this would not effect our account.

Days later as sales flooded in, our account was frozen without warning and without explanation.

We were never able to speak to the same person twice about the freeze which took over six weeks to sort out. We had no income as a business throughout this entire period.

We were able to take orders (and PayPal were able to take their fee) but were not able to despatch orders (in case PayPal closed our account in the interim and we would not receive payment for them). We could also not refund our customers’ purchases and so our phone lines, email accounts, Facebook wall and Twitter feed were deluged with complaints.

We found out who the President of the UK business was and as his office was based down the road from us in Richmond, Surrey, we wrote to him direct to plead for our cashflow to be restored and even hand delivered to him a free product and a copy of the magazine we were advertising in. He simply ignored us.

We were left to guess what documentation was required from us to unfreeze the account as the customer services people we could speak to were apparently not trained in dealing with frozen accounts. We were not able to speak to the department who freezes accounts to discuss with them the reasons they had acted as they had.

We decided we should just close the account and refund our customers but PayPal told us if we did that they would keep our money frozen for six months!

Looking back it strikes me that PayPal’s business model allows for businesses to sign up for an account too quickly and without any checks which are inevitably necessary. PayPal appears greedy to sign up new customers and not deter them from opening an account with their checks until seemingly on a whim they can then freeze the account once their customer is reliant on them and do as many checks as they like. If they feel it is so important to do these checks to protect consumers they should do them before the account is allowed to operate.

I’m sure small businesses would prefer PayPal carry out sufficient checks before committing to a contract with a business rather than rush to sign up businesses with no checks in to their business only to jeopardise the business later on in the relationship.

Small businesses in this country are finding things hard enough without PayPal acting in this way.

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Erica

I cant agree more with you. I finally got my cash transferred back into my local bank after 6 months. Never have I used PayPal since the incident. It’s simply ridiculous, with very poor customer service and unresponsive.

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Darryl

Yes I have.

Even though my PayPal account has existed since 2006, I sold a Canon SLR last year for £2200 and the money was frozen whilst PayPal ‘investigated’ the ‘legitimacy of the transaction’, both the buyer and I were in limbo whilst this took place.

No amount of phone calls could sort out the issue, PayPal staff telling us we just have to wait.

In the end the money was released after approximately 28 days, where I imagine it accrued a nice bit of interest for their coffers.

Considering I can and have moved substantial sums out of and into my wife and my joint bank account in a matter of hours, I think it’s utterly disgraceful.

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Lindsey Briggs

The Government is encouraging us all to set up in business, whether that is just as a small business, or as a self employed contract worker. Presumably, this is to reduce the cost of governing. Likewise, we are all encouraged to go online and older people are being chastised for being reluctant to follow the trend. Personally, I refuse to bank on line, but thought that PayPal was a relatively safe way to conduct business over the internet, albeit for small sums of money. Thank you for these salutary warnings. It is all very well for the Government to encourage us to risk our money and livelihoods, by conducting business on line, but I don’t see much help or sympathy when things go wrong. It is hardly surprising that a lot of older people refuse to be bullied on this subject. They are wise having gained insight from experience and are rightly wary of things they don’t fully understand, or avoid new things until they been tried and tested. We have recently cancelled our facebook account, having tried it and found it unsatisfactory in so many ways. I am far from being entirely sceptical, I was using computers in the very early days of their introduction, including working for a company that had intranet and an early version of the internet, so have at least 35 or 36 years of using them. What amazes me is that they are not more advanced. We seem to be one step behind the criminals, not one step ahead, hence the crude security measures that cause most of the problems. I can only conclude that the lack of this country’s investment is to blame. This allowed Microsoft to dominate for far too long, squeezing out the brilliant entrepreneurs of rival software companies based in this country. If this hadn’t happened in the late eighties and early nineties, we might now have a home grown alternative to PayPal. Also, don’t get me on the subject of American internet security software, that’s for a different discussion.

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John RT

An attempt was made to phish my credit card, so I changed my credit card number. Reported this to PAYPAL, who blocked me for 180 days, as my new card no longer tied in with my bank account.
I provided endless security details to release my £200.
Still blocked for 180 days. Never used PAYPAL since.

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Jeff

I have purchased on ebay once. Lately I was preparing to bid for a DVD recorder,I was declined because I did not have an ebay account. Tried to get one and after giving all the information I was asked to telephone ebay, the telephone charges were I think 57 p a minute. I did not phone and let the matter go.For me Amazon is trouble free and preferable.

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mgk33

just had my pay-pal account frozen,sold a watch to a woman on e-bay,fully serviced for £180 at the watchmaker.and warranted for the work.she had it for nearly 31/2weeks,then when i went to pay for something my account had been held.she had not contacted me,she just opened a case and e-bay without even contacting me to get my side of the story,withheld my account.tried contacting pay-pal,e-bay and i have to wait untill they decide my fate.
thoroughly peed off.
martin

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will g

my account wasn’t blocked but I wish it had been. My eBay (who own PayPal) account was hacked and they took around 40 payments via PayPal. I spoke to my bank who froze my account, but getting PayPal to refund all 40 payments was one of the most tedious experiences I have ever been though, and even then they failed to refund a couple of payments despite me providing repeated evidence of the fraud. Speaking to to a living, breathing PayPal employee on the phone is rarer than seeing a dodo riding a unicorn.
It infuriates me that there are no realistic competitors to PayPal

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Raxit

I have used Paypal for around 10 years, never a problem. I had used it primarily for making purchases on ebay or other online retailers – to make a payment. Along with it, for few years I had also used it to receive payment for my than retail website. However, due to slow business, I had closed my business couple of years back. Since, than I have been using paypal only for making payments for my purchases. So, it was kind of shock for me to see that out of a blue there is an email from paypal limiting my access to account. First I thought it to be a spam, but I logged in to my paypal account and saw notice there too. It said that due to violating terms, I should remove paypal logo’s from my website and my account has been permanently limited which can not be appealed. Now, this was odd, as website had been closed, no transaction in at least last 2 years, and if count 3 years before the last 2 years, hardly can find 10-20 transactions! But, last 2 years, NIL. So, I was surprised how they are claiming that website which has been shut for 2 years, is violating their Terms and conditions. Still, I requested them in email to reconsider and provide documentation which can help them clear any misunderstanding they may have.

Reply was their decision stands. I called them, but heard same that you can not use our services bla bla. It felt bad actually, that I used for years without any issue due to good coverage they provide, and all of sudden I was treated as not needed without ‘any’ factual explanation by blocking my account. However, as I said, I hardly used it to make a payment for my ebay purchases, there was no money in it, as I just used my paypal account as a buyer for last few years. So, I didn’t have to worry about my money being frozen. But only thing that ticks me off is, they get to block me because they don’t feel safe doing business with me without any reason, however my bank account, credit card information, phone number, address, ssn etc stays with them in my frozen account!! That makes me feel uncomfortable now. In, short best not to link all that and don’t count on paypal.

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Diana Brighouse

I set up a PayPal account in its early days, probably over 15y ago. At the time I was naive to internet buying and selling and hesitated to give them all the bank details that they asked for. I then got in a total muddle trying to use a different email address and different credit cards. The upshot was that I successfully sold a few low cost items, then couldn’t get the money out, so used it to make a purchase. Since then I have had a frozen account. I only buy on ebay through ‘buy it now’ which is a pain, and I do all my selling through Amazon marketplace – which is fail safe and efficient but pricey.
I find it infuriating to be effectively banned from ebay by being unable to set up a PayPal account, and would totally endorse every bad word that has been written about PayPal.

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KMcLaren

I’ve used paypal for years. Tens of £’000′s of pounds have gone through the account. In May of this year I decided to dissolve the company my account was attached to. I informed paypal that I wanted to change information ect.

Two days later my account was frozen. The reason, the information on the account was no longer valid.

I’ve battled then since, and still have a large sum held by paypal.

Constant calls, all saying the same thing, yes sir, there is no fruadulant activity on your account and will contact you in the next 24hours so you can close the account down, blah, blah, blah…

I spoke to the FSA who advise me that is against UK rules for such practices of withholding monies. Doing a little research on the web, PAYPAL has being doing this for years, 100′s of 1000′s of posts around the world and in the UK.

What has been done about it, absolutely NOTHING. Not ONE thing at all. Ever.

It beggers believe that we are not being protected by such practices. The only way I am going to get my money back is to take PAYPAL to court.

I just wonder how many people have given up, and how much money paypal have taken, used by paypal to pay for assets ect. Whilst of course I have no proof, it must run into the tens of millions of pounds if not more.

I would say this PRACTICE of freezing accounts in such ways, MUST be stopped and the UK government must step in to protect legitimate – because there is one thing constant, PAYPAL have been saying for years the same thing.

“We are improving how we handle…..”

NO THEY ARE NOT.

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mudasar haneef

I run business on eBay . Top rated seller with no complaints. Ome day paypal called me and said your account is in negative balance and you have to pay but they did not tell details of that account. Few days later my business account was limited and linked to some fraudulent account. They say it’s your account and you owe us 1766 pounds. I gave all my ids , business docs to prove my true existance. They review and placed permanent limitation . They froze 4200 in business account. All my eBay payments are on hold and I am losing 1000 per day of sales. Then debt recovary called me several times a day and ask to pay 1766 . I paid with thought it may solve probelm and paypal mat restore my business account. But no success. Just today I received reply from their executive team that I actually owe then £6200. Now stituagiin is getting worse every day. I don’t know why they are blaming me. If somebody did fraud with paypal with my details then paypal should have system in place to check that. I’d theft is crime and paypal is blaiming victim rather than culprits . My advice never ever use paypal or at least sign petetin to bring “preypal “under uk banking laws.

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Oliver

I don’t know if anyone’s had a similar experience with Paypal as me but just in case I’d love some advice:

I’ve been a member of Ebay for 13 years and run my own business on there which is my only means of income to support my family.

My business model was simple. I’d purchase 100 broken Apple iPhones a month from Ebay to repair then resell back on Ebay.

They business was doing well and I’d managed to keep it going since 2009 however, PAYPAL have now given me no choice but to close the business down meaning I no longer have any source of income.

The problem was first bought to my attention in February 2014 when without warning Paypal limited my account and told me there would be no appeals. Several days later I discovered they’d limited the account because we had opened too many disputes on Ebay / Paypal.

I explained to them Ebay being the site it is if we purchase 100 iPhones a month there’s a good chance at least 5 will not arrive from dishonest sellers. Paypal didn’t seem interested in the explanation and again refused any appeal even though I went to all the trouble of listing every single dispute we’d opened in the past 3 months to prove every single one was genuine and had been closed in our favour. Paypal’s reply to this was we should build a 10% loss into the company plan to absorb the non receipt items and not open a Paypal dispute!!

After about a week we decided our time with Paypal and Ebay was over only to be telephoned out of the blue by Paypal telling me the limitation had been removed as they could see everything was genuine and the limitation “WOULD NOT” return. Great news….so we thought.

Roll on May…….three months after the initial limitation it returned!!!!!!!!!!

We tried to reason with Paypal , we begged, we tried to reason. Nothing has helped. We only opened one dispute in the whole three months since the first limitation. When we put this to Paypal we were told it had nothing to do with it and the limitation had been imposed because it shouldn’t have been removed back in February.

We’ve tried borrowing family member accounts to continue trading but Paypal just slap a limitation on those too.

I’m guessing their nothing I can do about this and the business will have to close and I’ll have to look for some other was to earn a living but any help or advice that can be offered will be appreciated.

OIiver ( Ebay user name Owndevices )

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helen

feel really sorry for you, they are so frustrating, Banks would have to explain so why do they not, are they a law unto themselves, looks like it, sorry I dont have a solution as i am in the same boat (lots of boats sinking by the sound of it)!!!! hope some one comes up with a solution.

regards
Helen

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helen

Pay Pal has still not improved, my account was frozen, no explanation cant get money out for 180 days, discusting 25th June 2014

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Andrew Carey

I have also had problems with paypal .I have a paypal account but a family member also set up a paypal account and due to not having a bank account i let them use my bank account details on there paypal account Now due to a problem with a sale on e,bay on that familys account .Paypal have frozen my account and i can no longer withdraw funds .I have contacted paypal and have been told even thought that account is not mine it is linked via my bank account now my paypal is frozen and i cannot withdraw the funds..All thought paypal will let funds be paid in .Is there any legal way or advice to release the funds..thanks

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lien

I had my account frozen over 8 months ago, as paypal/ebay use Luxemburg for avoiding tax here in the uk, I would not supply all my personal details to another EU country as personal info is not safe.
Despite numerous calls, on one occassion an irish operator told me I would be dead before I got my money back if i did not supply a copy of my passport and utility bills, I took extreme offence at this, no way will I ever give details to a company like this.
My argument was I have had a paypal account since they started, they happily take money off me with no questions asked, they have my bank details, card details etc, this is no longer enough for them.
We have now, like thousands of others abandoned paypal and e bay. use Nochex and Allpay for our e com sites, both excellent providers, no issues with either of them, and our e com sites are reaching what seems to be a far better buying public.
I think as long as you use paypal for one off payments, you are ok, just do not let them hold any funds whatsoever.

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