September 9, 2017
Re: Consumer Alert: Bermuda Financial Network
Bermuda Financial Network (BFN) is licensed by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) to do business in Bermuda. BFN also is the licensed vendor for Western Union.
I like many Airbnb hosts receive our monies for vacation rentals through Western Union.
For the past several weeks the BFN’s Western Union system has been inoperable due to an “alleged” system upgrade. Therefore persons who send and receive monies through Western Union have been unable to do so. Each week for the past several weeks BFN has advised customers – including me that its system would be up and running the next week. In good faith I did not stop my Airbnb payouts and now have several backlogged in the BFN Western Union system which I am unable to receive.
Friday, September 1, 2017, there was a media release in the Royal Gazette from BFN advising the public that they were undergoing a system upgrade that they would be operable on September 8, 2017. I called BFN’s Hamilton location on September 8, 2017 and was informed in the most surly manner that the system was not operating and was told to call next week. No apologies, no explanation, no advice on how to retrieve my monies. I left a message for the owner Alvin Wilson to return my call.
Mr Wilson did return my call. He advised me that his equipment was stranded in Florida because of the storm and would not reach Bermuda until next week. I asked Mr Wilson how this was possible as for the past several weeks he had been informing his customers that the system upgrade would be completed the following week which would imply that the upgrade was in progress. I also asked him why he is only now admitting that his components were not even on Island. He had no explanation. I then informed him that I had several Airbnb payments backlogged in his system and needed to be paid. He became defensive and informed me I could not and would not be paid until his system was up and running.
I told him that his position was ludicrous and he must have had some form of manual pay out process in the event of catastrophic system failure. He informed me that he did not. I told him that I had the actual verified notifications from Airbnb and that he should honour them. He refused. Mr Wilson went to place the blame for my predicament on Airbnb and stated that it was the company’s fault because he told them that Western Union was not working and that they should send Airbnb payments via Money Gram.
At that point, I admit that I lost it and asked Mr Wilson if he was crazy. I told him that he was licensed by the BMA and he had to have some backup payout mechanism if his systems failed so that customers could get access to funds backlogged in the system. I also asked him why he was sending all of his business to a competitor. I reminded him that when HSBC – the former Bank of Bermuda had a system failure several years ago that customers still had access to their funds. I finally informed him that I had creditors and asked if he expected me to inform them that he was holding my money and therefore they would not be paid until I was paid. He did not respond.
I informed Mr Wilson that I would be filing a complaint with Consumer Affairs and the BMA. He became defensive and snapped at me and said that the BMA is already aware of the situation. Unbeknown to him I had already contacted the BMA which was not aware of the problem, did not know that BFN had been holding customer funds for the past several weeks and advised me to file a complaint. When I informed him of this fact he did not respond. He stated that he would make some calls to Western Union in Florida and call me back. As of noon today he has not returned my call.
The only saving grace in this matter is that I am scheduled to travel in a few weeks and will be able to gain access to my funds if this matter is not resolved locally. However, I am most disappointed in Mr Wilson at his dishonesty about the real state of affairs with his system, his poor customer service and the lack of a backup money transfer mechanism to protect the public in the event of system failure.
I am also concerned that the BMA would license a financial establishment without ensuring that it could honour its financial obligations to the public. I am in the process of trying to figure out a cost effective way to gain access to Airbnb payments as bank fees are too high for my overhead and the profit margin is too low for the average cost of an Airbnb rental locally and globally.
Personally, I believe that BFN should honour, manually honour, all vendor payout verfications through its system until this is resolved. In the interim going forward, I am trying to figure out how to be paid through Pay Pal. But I am not sure whether this can be done through a local bank – even with a US account.
I would be most grateful if you would investigate this incident as a matter of priority.
Eugenie Simmons, 10 Church Valley Lane, Sandys Parish MA 04