PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) has left customers unable to transfer money to their banks at least four times since June of last year.
A history of denial
You'll see the accounts in a tough-to-find thread at the PayPal community forum. Users reported similar issues in August, September, and this week.
On Tuesday, I experienced the same problem. After logging in and ordering a withdrawal, the system comes back with an error that advises me to try PayPal's "classic" interface. After a few clicks and a text message to verify my identity for the umpteenth time, the system informs me that there's still trouble and I won't be able to withdraw funds. I've still not found a fix.
How far the problem goes -- which systems, services, and regions are affected -- wasn't clear at the time of deadline. Looking at social media, it's obvious that I'm not the only who's had trouble:
#ALERT --> PayPal is down or having service trouble !!— Ricardo Wagner © (@ricardowec) October 13, 2015
A customer service rep I spoke with said there's a system issue that needs to be resolved. My best bet, she said, was to apply for a PayPal business debit card since I was withdrawing to a business account. That way, I'd have full access to the funds owed me while the system undergoes repairs. Call it a creative solution to an old problem.
And yet it's not the only one. On Oct. 5, a PayPal administrator took to the community boards to inform users that company engineers had fixed issues with "transaction delays."
PayPal responded to my requests for comment on the transfer glitch but didn't have an explanation as of this writing. Instead, we received this emailed statement:
PayPal has resolved an issue that prevented some customers from transferring money from their PayPal account to their bank accounts. We regret any frustration that this issue caused and encourage customers who were not able to transfer funds to their bank account to try again.
That an explanation is even required at this point -- for a problem that's now provably over a year old, and for which the company's customer service agents have no answer -- is troubling no matter what the excuse may be.
Where does this leave users and investors? Doused in irony. PayPal can't seem to finish account-to-bank transfers but is spending roughly $900 million to acquire consumer-to-consumer payments processor Xoom (UNKNOWN:XOOM.DL).
So far, this issue isn't widely reported. Significant damage to the stock could result were that to change. Why? A good portion of PayPal's value is tied to its brand.
Here's how CEO Daniel Schulman explained it at last month's Deutsche Bank 2015 Technology Conference, with comments courtesy of a transcript provided by S&P Capital IQ:
First of all, we have one of the strongest, if not the strongest brand in digital wallet in the world. PayPal is a brand. I think we're the 88th most valuable brand in the world -- across the world, Chinese companies, everything. In Australia, we're the #4 most popular brand. In the U.K., we're one of the top 10 most popular brands. And that brand is associated with trust and security. And that, that's a really powerful asset for us, and we intend to live up to that brand trust that consumers have.
Tarnishing that brand would take a toll. But in this case, it seems to be deserved. Are you having trouble using PayPal? Tell me on Twitter or reach out on Google Plus. I may use your comment in a follow-up article.