PayPal shut down York coffee shop’s account

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A week ago it was eBay announcing that stamps from North Korea could no longer be sold on the site as of the 9th of April. Today PayPal have closed a York seller’s account with no notice for selling coffee from Cuba.

York Coffee EmporiumThe Independent reports today that York Coffee Emporium were selling a brand of coffee called Cuban Serrano Superior and taking payments via PayPal. Having spotted the goods (goods from Cuba have been banned since the 1960s by the US) PayPal took decisive action and froze their PayPal account without any notice.

I find it hard to understand how a US embargo applies to UK companies, but PayPal say “PayPal makes every effort to comply with the laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate around the world. We have determined that as a US company, PayPal and all of its subsidiaries are obliged to comply with specific US government-imposed sanctions, even if these subsidiaries operate outside of the US“. I suspect that’s small comfort to York Coffee Emporium!

This really isn’t great publicity for PayPal, it makes them look like an overbearing monster instead of a great company to use for your online payments. Surely once it was discovered that a customer was selling goods prohibited under a US embargo, a quick phone call asking them not to accept payment via PayPal for these products or to remove them from their website would be better? It’s not like cuban coffee is illegal to sell in the UK.

Cutting off a small business’s revenue stream is devastating, not to mention any funds tied up in the PayPal account which probably won’t be released for 180 days. PayPal should be synonymous with small business support, not a constant threat of business closure.

We don’t know the full circumstances and maybe PayPal did telephone the company and ask them to cease trading coffee from Cuba before torpedoing their PayPal account… it doesn’t read like that in The Independent through but we’ll be happy to update the article if PayPal want to tell us that they did and are doing everything in their power to support a small independent local trader.

6 Responses

  1. To me paypal is just a computer that you cannot speak to and does what they want. Because they have essentially monopolised the market, there is almost nothing you can do.

    However I would advise to keep on and on at them. I got my account banned for a few years back (Saying I was linked to a suspended account which I wasn’t). I kept on and on and on for 2 months and finally they opened it again.

    It’s scary to think by not taking paypal payments, this could kill a lot of businesses.

  2. PayPal has made the wrong call here and I bet an ill-trained support rep with an itchy finger is to blame.

    Let’s get a few things clear. No embargo has been broken.

    The US embargo on Cuba prohibits the movement of goods between Cuba and the US. Here goods have moved from Cuba to the UK, which is entirely legal because we don’t have an embargo.

    Now, if the sellers sells that coffee to other UK residents. Again, no embargo has been broken. A problem only exists when the Cuban material is shopped from the UK to the US.

    And the specious argument that “PayPal is a US company” is only true when it wants to be and benefits eBay/PayPal. This seller has been penalised for acting entirely legally.

    It’s why doing any business with PayPal is inherently risky. They could pull the plug at any time.

  3. Paypal has had this reputation for years and there is not much people can do about this. Complaints are all over the internet, it is worrying how such a large company get away with this.

  4. I hate to say this but it is just another example of the fact that online business are just safe and reliable in some ways. It doesn’t matter if it’s ebay, paypal, amazon, google or any of the giants of the ecommerce world, they can just shut you down or turn you off with no reason.

    I worry every day about this in one way or another, the fact is they just don’t care about anyone and they forget the repressions of what they do, when they just turn you off what about people that employed by that company etc etc.

    If people really and knowingly break the rules then they should be punished, if they don’t realise they are breaking rules or not even breaking rules they shouldn’t!

  5. Just got back from Mexico and the Cuban cigars have totally been banned from entering the United States. A friend asked me to get him some. Come to find out they have just changed the law in 2012 to zero tolerance. Made it a huge fine and Jail time offense. Even though 75%+or- of the “Cuban” cigars sold in Mexico are actually counterfeit cigars marked as Cubans to boost their sale price. It’s a crazy world and somebody has to draw the line somewhere. Remember when US products where high in demand… Now we make comparatively fewer things and have crazy tea tax rules, on toilets, light globes etc. Can’t buy that, laws to save us from ourselves and the secret boardroom engineers who are trying to manipulate your every thought. And it’s working…


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