Circle Acts Like PayPal, Bans Bank Accounts and Freezes Payments

Users of Circle Inc., the Boston-based bitcoin startup, have been disputing with the company regarding payment verifications and banning of bank accounts. According to its users, Circle has started to hold payments for several days and ban accounts, in the tradition of Paypal.

Circle states on its website that it “believes that sending and receiving money should be […] instant and free.” Ironically, the startup has made it incredibly difficult to send payments and is creating a centralized payment infrastructure on top of the bitcoin, which negates the decentralized benefit of the cryptocurrency.

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In accordance with Circle’s long list of policies that specifies the need for payment verifications and the banning of Circle accounts that engage in “illegal” purchases, the company has begun banning bank accounts and freezing payments for days for additional verification.

One merchant found out the hard way when one of her customers used a Circle wallet to purchase products on the merchant’s e-commerce store, Hairlosstalk. The website suggested its users to purchase bitcoin using Circle, because it allows users to connect their bank accounts and buy bitcoins with USD.

One user emailed Stacia, the owner of the Hairlosstalk, saying that banks had banned bitcoin purchases and therefore limited the user’s access to Circle. However, Stacia found that Circle banned the user’s bank accounts and credit cards and restricted the user from purchasing bitcoins.

Stacia said:

Clearly he thinks his bank and credit cards have banned Bitcoin, but what happened is that Circle banned his bank accounts and credit cards. I thought the entire point of Circle was instant wallet funding via credit cards? I feel pretty embarrassed right now to be honest.

Circle recently raised over US$50 million in funding, with support from Goldman Sachs and IDG Capital Partners of China. The bitcoin wallet and exchange allows users to deposit dollars and bitcoins and send it to anyone around the world “for free.” However, recent events, user experiences and new policies suggest that Circle is shifting to a more traditional financial platform, more like a bank than a bitcoin exchange.

In a few months, Circle’s vision for its bitcoin platform went from “instant” to a few days and, quite possibly, a couple of weeks and months.

Users have begun to complain about Circle’s verification system and to leave the bitcoin platform for others. One user named Michael wrote on Uncrunched in February:

”I created an account and tried to add my bank account and credit card to deposit money into the system (as Bitcoin). I had to give a lot of personal information. And I had to take a photo of my drivers license. I don’t have a huge problem with that since these kinds of services are a huge fraud magnet. But Circle said they needed time to review the information. and here’s the problem, they basically (kind of) shut down my account while they were doing that.”

More than 10 public complaints have been uploaded on Reddit since the funding in 2014. Many users complained saying “i linked my debit card, made a purchase, it gets cancelled. i wait two days to link my bank account, make a small 10$ purchase, still no bitcoins. isnt it supposed to be instant?” and “After waiting a few days for my free $10 promotion to appear, I contacted Circle support and was told they stopped honoring that promotion”

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