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PayPal User Agreement requires US merchants to publish contact information
Over the weekend the US have seen some changes to the PayPal User Agreement. One of those changes requires merchants to publish customer service information so that customers are able to view and access this information if needed. The amendment that goes into effect on the 12th of March can be seen below:
Amendments to the PayPal Account User Agreement (Effective March 12, 2020)
- We are requiring that merchants publish customer service information, including at least one email address or customer service URL, and a telephone number, which must be readily accessible for review by merchants’ customers.
“Been there, Done that”
– UK & European merchants
The new PayPal user agreement has caused some panic among US merchants who don’t like the idea of sharing their personal information with the general public but if you’re going to use PayPal as a business, you’ll have to disclose your contact details whether you like it or not. If it’s any consolation, US PayPal is simply playing catch-up with a user agreement already in affect throughout Europe.
What does this mean for eBay merchants?
At the moment it is not entirely clear whether the PayPal agreement includes eBay sellers as merchants who need to ‘publish customer service information’ as the eBay contact information policy makes it complicated.
In the UK sellers have the option to make either a business or personal account. On a business account users can then input their business contact details without any ban risk, they’re also not forced to put their mobile number up for the world to see. As eBay US only have one account type there is currently no way for users to submit their contact details without the risk of getting banned.
It’s much more likely that this change is directed towards merchants who sell on their own websites and if not, eBay and PayPal have some talking to do.
There are a tremendous amount of small sites and business that accept Paypal for their internet business. Paypal buttons allow for basic websites to have cart-like functionality and card processing in one place. The issue with this new change is that you have to have both an email or contact form and a phone number. It’s the AND a phone number part I object to as I have an internet business and no desire to publish a phone number. There seems to be some unwritten rule (perception from the 50’s) about being in business requires the use of a phone. Which isn’t true. I disagree with being tied to a phone and with technology there is no reason at this day and age that a customer can’t get customer service via email. I know several small internet business that started out having a phone but ended up taking it off because of constant “help me” calls that only increase the time it takes to make a sale and do not increase the amount of sales. Cell phones have made phone service for a business terrible, since it’s effortless and cost less to make long-distance calls now people will just take the easy button and call when they should really just read and perform self service. There is a time and a place for phone, and not all business requires one for all purposes. Now, if Paypal wants to require a phone number for internal use to contact merchants to get information when there is a dispute or charge back in process, that’s ok.
You’ll have a percentage of customers that will want to speak to somebody before placing an order – it validates the business as being alive and not a scam website in some people’s eyes. Plus you may end up taking a larger order from somebody on the phone. That said, most don’t want to talk nowadays and, you’re right, email or Zendesk is sufficient. I just think it’s good to have both and see what ends up working/not working.
I agree completely about not wanting a phone number “out there”. It’s both a personal and professional decision. My reasons are much the same.
I’m in the USA and the phone culture here is very different compared to, say, Germany. If someone has your number then they’ll feel free call you at any time of day or night (or maybe text in the case of the younger set). I prefer just not to set expectations.
A couple of folks each year will challenge my ‘no phone calls’ policy and maybe I lose an order or two a year as a result, but my listings are fixed price and the opportunity cost of capital is very low so if it takes a few weeks longer to find a buyer who is happy with my service then that’s fine with me.
Actually using email only means that I will in most cases I will respond 365 days a year usually in close to real time because I’m happy to do so as I can fire off a quick response when it’s not going to interrupt my personal life or higher priority commercial work. Were I to use the phone, it would be hard-wired to a business hours clock in my local time zone. With email I can do my research and keep the response tight (and cover US buyers on the opposite coast). It’s hard just to hang up on someone even if all the answers are in the manual they are too lazy to read.
Google has the same requirement for a number if you advertise with them, so what I do is to have a number from a VOIP based provider buried on my site. That has a nondescript greeting and should a message be left I get a wav file of the message via email to which I respond via email (if it’s a genuine service issue) so it goes back into my standard workflow.
Given that I dropped PayPal for the most part since they stopped refunding fees on returns I don’t expect that their efforts to micro-manage my business will have much impact but I would be concerned if the now optional ‘click to reveal’ phone number arrangement on eBay becomes mandatory.