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In Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.

Author: 
Nigel Morris-Cotterill


"Need more help?" says the PayPal page. Another quality control failure....

In or about 2003, I closed our publishing company's account with PayPal because they kept blocking the account. At the time, PayPal wasn't the enormous global powerhouse that it has become. It was, essentially, a bunch of nerds for whom compliance and risk management was a nuisance. When electronic money started to exercise the US government's collective mind, PayPal found that it needed some risk management processes. They didn't do it properly. Then, later, when PayPal expanded into Europe, it migrated our account to its EU operations and put money laundering, etc. risk and compliance in Dublin where they set up systems that were not only rubbish but sent out letters referring to non-existent legislation. But now, a piece of essential third party produced software is pushing us towards at least opening, even if we don't use it, a PayPal account. How hard can it be? Surely they have learned something in the last, almost, 20 years? Seemingly not.

It would be funny if it wasn't so infuriating. PayPal is the great grand-daddy of all FinTechs. But what it should not be considered, at least on today's evidence, is a leader.
The PayPal sausage machine is defeating me. Almost 20 years ago, I closed our corporate accounts because PayPal kept blocking them because it couldn't get its head around me living in and accessing the account from Malaysia but the account was for a UK registered company.

It still can't: I cannot open an account. (read on for a whole hour's worth of messing about - there is something a bit like an account open now - but as the graphic shows, it's still a bit dubious.)

Geo location takes me to the Malaysia page (which says that PayPal is kind-of regulated in Singapore). It won't let me register a UK company. By fiddling around with the URL, I got to the UK registration page. It won't let me register my KL residential address. I am the sole director.

What absolutely amazes me is that, almost 20 years on, the simple fact that people don't live in the same country as their companies is still outwith the ken of a global enterprise.

And guess what? It's the same company, same URL, same Registered Office, same owner, same director, and I live (I think - I moved in 2003) in the same apartment, It's also the same bank account but I can't get to that part of the form because.. it can't validate a Malaysian postcode on the UK registration system - even though I did not tick the box to say that the account address is the same as my residential address.

Given that stability, my company is hardly fly-by-night, one would think.

I don't even want PayPal. It's being kind of forced on me as a way of making part of something else work.

So, I had to abandon the registration. That's when it became farcical:

In quick succession, I received five -mails.

"You've just updated your password"
"Confirm your e-mail"
"Confirm your e-mail"
"Update your business account information"
"Update your business account information."

The latter two say "You need to add more information about your business for compliance and regulatory reasons."

I KNOW. IT'S WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING. AND I TRIED TO DO IT BUT YOUR STUPID SYSTEMS PREVENTED IT.

SCREAM. SCREAM. SSSSSSSSSSSCCCCCCCCCCCCCRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Of course, they can't hear me.

But then it became even more silly. I remembered that even though I had repeatedly told PayPal to close my account, they had not done so. I went back into the email archives and found that, more than a decade after I told them to close the account, there was an e-mail l telling me to change my password. I remember replying to it saying something along the lines of "if you'd closed the account when you were told, this wouldn't be a problem. If there is a problem, it's your fault and your responsibility." Unsurprisingly, there had been no response. What, I wondered, would happen if I clicked on the reset password link in that e-mail?

It worked - but (someone really needs to look at this security) it opened to the new account. It insisted on a new password (good) and told me that the one I entered had been used before. Let's recap: a four year old link to an account that was or was supposed to be closed opened the accounts and reset password page for a new account. Genius.

Then a page came up telling me that information was missing. It did not produce an error message when I changed (despite the previous flag having not been set) my residential address so as to be true and not the company's address. Once more I inserted my date of birth. It all showed up correctly on the confirmation page. It asked for beneficial ownership information. I completed it accurately (having to rekey the same information because no one at PayPal thought that owners and directors might be the same people). I pressed "submit" - it lost all the data. I did it all over again... and I got a page saying that PayPal would get back to me in a few days and asking if I wanted to go back to account overview. I clicked.. Now it claims that my e-mail address is not confirmed. But -- hehe - I clicked on a link in an e-mail, remember? That was how I changed the password. How much more "confirmed" do they want it?

Twice, apparently. Both times with e-mails that arrived at 11:33 my time. Click a link, says the first one. So I did and apparently the account is ready for action (although it has a zero limit so that seems a bit misleading). Click a link, says the second one. So I did and now, at a different page to that from the first e-mail, I'm invited to give feedback. That'll be a hoot, I think. I'll just give them a link to this page.

Then, 20 minutes later.. another e-mail "activate your account." It says "To complete your PayPal Business account, you must click the link below and
enter your password on the following page to confirm your email address." Click. I'm taken to a page that says "Confirm e-mail address." And then I'm taken to the same page as I'm already logged into.

OK, so now, apparently, my publishing company once more (or still, who the Hell knows?) has a PayPal account. Until something else stupid goes wrong.

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