People Per Hour will simply take your money without telling you

I’ve just had a rather unpleasant experience with People Per Hour.  I experimented with using this service a couple of years ago, and it didn’t turn out that well (through no fault of anybody).  But there was a sting in the tail, which I have just discovered.

In order to use the service, you advertise a job.  You then deposit the full payment with People Per Hour.  They talk — on the website — about placing this in “escrow”.  “You the buyer pay nothing”, they cry.

You wait.

If you have funds in their keeping, after a certain time they get greedy.  If you haven’t used it, they take it “out” of “escrow” and put it in your “wallet”.   Then they wait and see if you notice.

If you don’t, and if you don’t log in, after 6 months, they start picking your pocket.  They deduct, every month, $6 from your balance.  Until it’s all gone.

They don’t, of course, email you that they are doing any of these things.

I have just discovered that these weasels appropriated $40 of my money in this way.  It stopped back in September, when — who knows why? — I logged into their site.

But I only found out about it this evening.  And I only found out by accident.  Because I was looking around the confusing-looking account options, when I found something about payments.  And, idly, I clicked on it to see what my experiment last time cost.

I was pretty surprised to find that I, apparently, had a balance in my “wallet” of $150!  That’s real money.

And I happened to notice that you could click on the numeral — there was nothing to indicate this — and so was led to a list of deductions.

Your PPH Wallet has been charged with an Admin Fee of £4.20 for holding on to your money while you’ve been away

How kind of them.

The list of deductions is so well buried that, when I wanted to double-check it, I had some difficulty working out what I had clicked on.  They really try to hide it.

I went looking for an explanation.  Eventually I came across this in their terms and conditions:

8.1 Buyer Fees

PPH do not charge a fee to the Buyer. …

And very, very much further down:

8.4 Admin fee for inactive User accounts

If a User has funds in their PPH Wallet and the User has not logged in to their PPH account for a period of six (6) months or more then PPH will charge a monthly administration fee of £3.50 (excl. VAT) for holding those funds on behalf of the inactive User.    This fee will be automatically collected each month from the funds in the User’s PPH Wallet starting from the seventh (7th) calendar month since the User last logged in to their User account.    The collection of this fee will end when either i) the account becomes active again after the User logs back in to PPH, or ii) the balance in the PPH Wallet is cleared.

Whether their “terms” said any of that, back when I did business with them, well, of course I do not know.  But nobody leaves money on a site for someone else to take at their leisure.  Either way, I feel pretty cheated.

These people also try to hide their details.  They are, in fact, a United Kingdom-based business, registered at Companies House as People Per Hour Ltd, Company number 06369697, Registered Address: 6 New Street Square, London, EC4A 3LX.

I have, needless to say, placed a request tonight to refund every penny they list as belonging to me.

Whether I have any recourse I do not know.  But I think a query to the financial ombudsman is in order.

It’s a shame.  The typesetter I have found looks perfectly sound, and very useful.  But I don’t want to deal with a website if I think it will do things like this.