Ah, PayPal. The best friend of eBay shoppers and people too lazy to pull out their credit card while ordering a pizza online. Good ol’ PayPal would never hurt us, especially since we were all kind enough to give it access to our bank accounts in the name of convenience. Except, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, PayPal has actually been hurting tens of thousands of us for a long time. Apparently, blindly allowing it to act as a middleman in millions of online transactions for all of these years wasn’t such a good idea. Whoops!
The CFPB’s report lays out a list of PayPal’s transgressions, and they all sound pretty devious. First, there’s “Deceptively advertised promotional benefits,” which means that PayPal promised $5 or $10 credits to people and never actually sent them out. Then there’s the “Abusively charged consumers deferred interest” section, which explains that PayPal allowed people to defer the interest on their PayPal Credit accounts, then refused to give out information about how the deferring would actually work, and then charged people fees on the interest that they couldn’t properly defer.
Speaking of those PayPal Credit accounts, it also signed people up for those without asking or telling them, and then automatically set that as the primary payment account for PayPal purchases, meaning the consumer would end up getting charged interest (and, of course, late fees) for an account they didn’t even know about. Finally, PayPal also refused (or “forgot”) to remove late fees from people’s accounts, “lost payment checks or took more than a week to process checks,” and “mishandled consumers’ billing disputes and made billing errors.”
Basically, the only way PayPal could’ve fucked up any worse would’ve been to directly take all of our money and run off to live on an island somewhere. “PayPal? No, my name is ShmayShmal. I have a mustache. PayPal doesn’t have a mustache.” Luckily, PayPal’s not that clever, and—unlike most companies—it’s actually being punished for the illegal stuff it has been doing. The CFPB has declared that PayPal must refund the affected customers a total of $15 million and pay a $10 million fine.
PayPal, recognizing that it has been beaten pretty bad here, has already agreed to pay the fine. We should all probably keep an eye on our own bank accounts, though, just in case there’s a mysterious withdrawal of $25 million in the next few days.