PayPal cancels customers it doesn't like

PayPal on a smartphone

In the past 48 hours or so PayPal’s UK arm has canceled the accounts of a number of campaigning organizations including the Free Speech Union, legal campaigners Law or Fiction, parents group UsForThem, and even the personal account of the FSU's founder journalist Toby Young.

The only reason the company has given for these actions is to cite its Acceptable Use Policy. And, as Young wrote in his column in The Spectator, PayPal also decided it would hang onto his money for up to 180 days while deciding whether to extract 'damages' before refunding it.

PayPal's policy covers stuff like money laundering, and activities that 'promote' racial intolerance, violence and hate, none of which, as far as we can tell, any of these organizations have indulged in. What they have done is to question established orthodoxies -- in the case of UsForThem for example to argue that schools should have been kept open during COVID lock downs.

UsForThem founder Molly Kingsley told The Daily Telegraph, "If something about that mission offends PayPal, why could they not be transparent about that? For a small volunteer organisation, this has a significant impact on our ability to operate, as presumably was intended."

Now you can argue, and some have, that PayPal is a business and can decide to cancel whatever accounts it wants. However, as a payments provider in the UK it's subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which gives it a legal obligation to treat all its customers fairly. Cancelling an account with no notice, not giving a specific reason and holding onto funds for up to six months doesn't seem terribly fair to us.

Judging by Twitter lots of people in the UK feel the same and have been closing their personal and business PayPal accounts in protest at the company's actions, with the hashtag #BoycottPayPal trending at one time.

We've approached PayPal's media team for comment, at the time of writing it hadn't responded.

Of course there's a wider point at issue here too. As we move towards a fully cashless society would you be happy that a politicized fintech company can close your account without warning just because it disagrees with your views? Scary thought isn't it?

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