Look at how PayPal and eBay deal with this question online.
Then look at how other ‘real world’ companies deal with it.
A little over a year ago, following my brother’s experience of a ‘buyer dispute scam’ (buyer receives goods, claims they’re faulty or not as described, gets refund from PayPal, keeps what you sent them and returns whatever they feel like returning) I tried to research who regulates PayPal.
I spent the best part of a day talking to people at the Financial Services Authority and the Financial Ombudsman Service and posted their best advice (which frankly didn’t amount to much) in the form of a step-by-step guide for readers to follow if they needed to complain about PayPal’s conduct.
That post is still #1 in Google globally for the query “how do I complain about paypal”. Depressingly, in all that time, no individual or regulatory body has managed to add anything more useful or authoritative to my post. It’s not as if we’re talking about a corner shop here. This is PayPal – a financial organisation making money from more than 100 million customer accounts and there’s NO information how to complain about it. It is almost beyond belief.
But it got me thinking: how do other financial giants deal with that Google keyphrase directed at them?
A search on “how to complain about Barclays” gives you this. A search on “how to complain about government” gives you this. “How to complain about TSB” gives you this. “How to complain about HSBC” gives you this. “How to complain about British Airways” gives you this. “How to complain about Sainsbury’s” (eventually) gives you this.
Get the picture? Each of those organisations (chosen randomly just now) responds to that query with their own procedures and information.
Yet a search for “how do I complain about PayPal” or “How do I complain about eBay” produces nothing from those two companies. It’s as if they don’t feel they have to acknowledge customer complaints.
What’s really interesting is that the next online company I chose to do this test on – Amazon – also doesn’t respond to the query. And the same for Play.com.
That quick review shows a simple – and shocking – distinction: offline businesses have formal complaints procedures only because they are findable in the real world whereas the people behind online businesses aren’t. The result? You and I can’t find out how to complain about PayPal, eBay, Amazon or Play.com for love nor money.
It’s outrageous that businesses which operate entirely online feel that they don’t have to anticipate or deal with customer complaints. It’s extremely dangerous that they can also operate without regulation.