Bad Review: Clearent LLC

A Bad Payment Processor

As a locally family-owned business we know how hard it is to stay in business when times are tough, let alone during a PANDEMIC.  A small business like ours doesn’t have the backing of angel investors or thousands of shareholders.  A family business is small, it has emergencies, and is not immune to the attacks and abuse from large companies that feel they can get away with anything, complaints and bad reviews.  One of those companies is Clearent.  In my opinion, Clearent LLC is one of the most dishonest credit card processing companies I have ever come across.

A Terrible Business And Partner

Businesses are like partners, no they are not people, but the relationships we have with them are similar to those we have with people.  Well, because people run companies, not robots.  And if you are required to sign a contract, then it’s like a marriage.  I have mentioned before on a previous blog about communication, trust, and respect.  In this blog I take it a step further, business relationships, similar to marriages, are based on three fundamentals: love, respect, and honesty.  Many would argue that with respect, honesty is a given, but you would be surprised.  That is why I mention all three.  These are important characteristics, because, just like choosing a life partner, you need to take these into account in order for it to be an everlasting relationship, one which will endure the good times and the bad.

In courtship, it’s common for some people, and in Clearent’s case, to say just about anything  the other person wants to hear.  This is dishonest, and at the time, I wasn’t aware of any bad reviews from Clearent, I had no reason to believe otherwise.  It was all good at first with Clearent and it’s representatives, we signed the contract (we said our “I do” so to speak) and yes we had a honeymoon phase that lasted a few years.  Clearent provided a credit card processing services and we paid our dues.  Everyone was happy, it was the “good times”.  Then Covid-19 hit and the hard times did too.

For Better Or Worse, With The Exception Of A Pandemic

Honesty. Respect. Love.  Why do I mention love and business together?  No, I’m not talking about the romantic type of love, but the love you have for the company’s product or service, their mission, and their customer service.  For example, do you shop at a retailer you dislike?  Somewhere that sells faulty products or where the customer service is lacking?  (Honesty)  Do you support companies that are greedy, discriminate, pollute, or violate basic human rights? (Respect)  A business you love is one where they put people over profits, where you are the priority, where you are a repeat customer, where you leave positive reviews, it is one you recommend to all your friends and family.  (Love)  A company that always shows you love, respect, and honesty, will always have your loyalty.  Until, well, they don’t.  And that is exactly what happened to me with Clearent LLC.

Here is a copy my complaint which is also posted on the Better Business Bureau website here.

MERCHANT COMPLAINT:

 
“WORST CREDIT CARD PROCESSING COMPANY!!! When Covid began we asked our 3rd party rep Charlie to freeze our account 766766 until further notice. He emailed Clearent on 4/20/20. Clearent froze our account in May & June, then billed us $81.90 in July & $161.85 in August 2020. The unfreezing was never approved or made aware to the rep. We called Clearent on 9/13/20 and was told to talk to our rep. Which we did AGAIN and Charlie told us it was taken care of. But we still were billed $81.90 for another 7 months, a total of $817.05. During the entire time we NEVER made one single Clearent transaction. Finally in March 31, 20215. In March we had enough and formally closed the account and we got 3 months reimbursed $245.70, but still owed $571.35, and just for fun Clearent charged us $16.95 in April, increasing the balance owed to $588.30 In April we had a 3-way call with Clearent and Charlie, Clearent’s excuse was, well since you didn’t catch our hands on time in the cookie jar, it’s your fault.”

CLEARENT LLC RESPONSE:

“The suspension in 4/2020 was a covid relief program offered by Clearent and it was a maximum of two months billing suspension. That is why the account started billing again on the third month, (June 2020). The suspension was not permanent for any merchant taking advantage of the relief Clearent was offering.

Per the attached, the merchant called in on 9/13/2020 and our Customer Service representative sent a closure form at that time. They emailed the form to wcbodyandpaint@gmail.com with instructions on where to send an additional request for a refund. That form was never returned to us. When the form was not returned, we had no permission to close the account and left it open and ready for processing per the attached contract. If the merchant has a way to send us proof that the form was successfully emailed in to accountclosures@clearent.com or faxed it successfully to 866-767-1905, then we can issue a full refund. If not, we have no choice but to comply with the sales representative’s instructions which was a maximum 3 month refund also per the contract. Additionally, if anything can be sent proving the form was sent to Charlie instead of Clearent, despite the instructions on the form, we can accept that as well. However, Charlie was unable to provide us with anything when we asked him for the information in order to process a full refund.

With the exception of March fees,  which was charged in April we have given the maximum refund we can with the evidence we have, and the permission of the independent sales office. I have requested an additional refund totaling $16.95 for the March fees. Those should be in the merchant’s account we have on file, within 30 business days.  If any further information, or proof of closure form sent prior to March of 2021, then we can revisit the billing and an additional refund.”

MERCHANT RESPONSE:

“The covid relief program was NEVER offered or mentioned orally or in writing to Merchant, in fact Merchant has NEVER heard of it from any Clearent Customer Service Representative or Merchant’s Sales Representative.  It was never mentioned to Merchant by the sales representative Charlie because it doesn’t exist, as demonstrated on the attached email dated March 31, 2021 where he states: “Clearent continued billing in August without any notification to me.  I wish I would have been made aware that billing was continued, and I would have put a stop to it immediately.”  It was Merchant who requested “Please freeze this account until further notice due to COVID-19 restrictions” as per the attached email sent by the Sales Representative on 4/20/20 on behalf of Merchant to Clearent.  Out of the over 9 Clearent Customer Service Representatives Merchant spoken to NONE ever mentioned the existence of any covid relief program by Clearent or any other program of another name with such terms.  If Clearent has a way to send Merchant proof of notice for the covid relief program offered by Clearent and its terms was successfully emailed to wcbodyandpaint@gmail.com , then we can consider the suspension nonpermanent.  If not, Clearent has no choice but to acknowledge the validity of the Sales Representative’s instructions emailed on 4/20/20 and issue Merchant a full and complete refund.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say Clearent did send Merchant a written notification of a covid relief program, that as you mention was a “maximum of two months billing suspension” it raises the questions:  Why was the Sales Representative under the impression that Merchant had not been billed “during April, May, June, and July” as stated on his 3/31/20 email?  Does Clearent omit or falsify Merchant billing data to Sales Representatives?  And why was Merchant charged $161.85 on 8/10/20 as a “Monthly Fee” as stated by Merchant’s Bank of America statement and not the same amount as the previous month?  If Clearent states in the response “a maximum of two months billing suspension”, was then the “monthly fee” collected in August simply a result of a deceitful form in disguise of a “covid relief program” to then charge double “Monthly Fees”?

Regarding “Monthly Fees”, can Clearent explain why the $81.90 Monthly Fee billed in February 2020 through March 2021, with the exception of $161.85 in August 2020, was not the same as the $16.95 billed in April 2021?  Which Clearent states on the response as “March fees, which was charged in April”?  Can Clearent explain why Merchant was charged as if the transactions were submitted for processing, when in fact, NOT A SINGLE transaction had taken place for months.  Can Clearent indicate where in the Merchant signed contract it states what the monthly fee is, when ZERO transactions are submitted for processing?

Regarding contracts, the forms Clearent submitted, as “Taxpayer Information” and “Visa Disclosure” were forged, Merchant did not sign them.  Merchant is aware that forgery is a crime and it can result in criminal penalties.

Regarding the refund, if Clearent believed they committed no breach, misrepresentations, omissions, or forgery, why give Merchant any refund at all?  Additionally, can Clearent show proof and indicate where in the Sales Representative contract, successfully received in writing emailed to wcbodyandpaint@gmail.com there states “a maximum 3-month refund also per the contract”?

If Clearent cannot provide any written evidence proving no deceit, breach, misrepresentations, omissions, and forgery by Clearent and it’s Representatives to Merchant, then we expect a full and complete refund within 30 business days.”

CLEARENT LLC RESPONSE:

“A partial refund was issued per the sales office’s request and per the contract which states a merchant has a total of 90 days to dispute the fees/funds they received.

The proof we gave about the closure was the email sent to wcbodyandpaint@gmail.com which included a closure form, that we never received back filled out and signed, which would have given us the permission to close the account. We have only ever received t

If anything was sent to the sales office, we did not receive it and that is why we advised previously, that if the merchant could provide the email/successful fax transmission confirmation they have, showing it was successfully emailed/faxed either to Clearent or the sales office in September of 2020, then a full refund could be provided. But at this time, we show that we closed the account in March 2021 as requested with the form we received dated 3/1/2021 and we gave the maximum refund we could according to the contract.”

MERCHANT RESPONSE:

“Since a partial refund was issued on 3/31/21, as per the contract, Merchant is within the 90 days to dispute the fees/funds they received, as you state in your most recent response.  Well, that is what Merchant is currently doing here publicly on BBB.org, and has been doing for the past 3 months via phone and email.

Clearent has failed to prove the existence of the so-called “Covid Relief program offered by Clearent”.  Clearent is in breach of fulfilling the request which the Sales Representative emailed Clearent on 4/20/20, which requested a freeze of Merchant account UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.  Clearent has failed to provide explanation as to why Merchant was billed $161.85 on 8/10/20.  Clearent has failed to explain why the different monthly fees ranging from $16.95 to $81.90, and $161.85. Clearent has failed to show what the monthly fee is when transactions are not submitted for processing.  Clearent has not been able to prove forgery did not take place.  Clearent has not shown proof indicating where in the contract it states there is a maximum 3-month refund.

Since Clearent has continued to fail to provide any written evidence, Merchant expects a full and complete refund within 30 calendar days.”

****

Irreconcilable Differences

So what do you do when you find out your life partner has been cheating on you, not once, or twice, but several times and for several months?  And their argument is, “Well, it was your responsibility to catch me in the act, and quickly too.”  You expect relationships to be based on communication, trust, honesty, love, and respect.  Business relationships are no different.  Big companies like Clearent LLC, and it’s representatives, in this case, Charlie Schloredt from Merchant Financial Services, can’t point the fingers at me, the Merchant.  So a word of caution if you do business with Clearent, learn from my experience.  I emailed Charlie last month and still haven’t heard from him.  I will keep you posted with the outcome.

What To Do When You Work With A Bad Credit Card Processing Company Like Clearent?

Or any other business…?

Lessons learned.  Now here comes the good news, in everything I try to see the good in every situation.  I’m a half-glass-full type of guy, and even though we parted in bad terms AND I never want to do business with Clearent LLC again, I did learn a few things.  Here is what I learned and this goes with any business you buy products or services from.

  1. Research the business products, services, mission statement, etc.  Make sure they put people over profits.
  2. Read the ENTIRE contract before signing.  It should be fair and balanced.  Understand their early termination fees, monthly fees, and the process to cancel if necessary.  If you don’t understand something, ask questions.
  3. Once the contract is signed, check your bank statements daily or atleast monthly.  If you notice something off immediately call AND email the company to settle the matter in a timely fashion.
  4. Keep records and detailed notes of EVERY email and call.  If you have a recording device record the call and let the other person on the line know that you are recording the call as well.
    1. Email: send yourself a carbon copy (cc:).
    2. Phone: take note of the day, time, and person you spoke to and what was discussed. Record the call for accuracy.
    3. Mail: use certified mail with signature.
    4. Fax: make sure your fax went through and it is recorded (fax number, day, and time) that is was successfully sent.
  5. If no settlement is reached warn others.
    1. Write a review on Google, Yelp or similar review sites.
    2. Write a blog post on your website.
    3. File a complaint with the Consumer Affairs.
    4. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
    5. Inform your friends and family.
    6. Let others know on social media (like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc)

These are only a few lessons I learned along the way.  What has been your experience?  Have you worked with a company with bad business practices?  What has worked or not worked for you?  I would love to hear your experiences.

At West Coast Body and Paint we pride ourselves on being honest and fair with all our clients and business dealings.  We expect to work with like-minded people and companies so when we don’t, well we learn from our mistakes and help others not to fall in the same trap.  Sorry for the long blog post and for not really being automotive related but I felt compelled to share in hopes of helping even one person.  Stay safe and take care.

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