Spokane Journal of Business

Merchant Services Direct made false advertising claims, BBB alleges

Merchant Services Direct takes down its website while pursuing resolution

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The Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana says Spokane Valley-based electronic payment processing company Merchant Services Direct LLC has made advertising claims that may be misleading.

Chelsea Dannen, director of communications at the BBB, says the Spokane-based agency received 43 complaints about Merchant Services Direct in 2012. Of those, Dannen says, 17 were from consumers who said they were promised greater savings than they received.

As a result of complaints the BBB has received, it dropped its rating of Merchant Services Direct to a D grade earlier this month. The company previously had a C-minus rating from the agency.

Ariel Allen, operations manager at Merchant Services Direct, says the company took down its website Jan. 29 because of the BBB's concerns. The company is in the process of having a new site designed, Allen says, and is "changing any claims that could be misleading to the consumer."

In a press release issued Jan. 28, the BBB says that in complaints filed in the past year, consumers report that they were led to believe the savings promised by Merchant Services Direct were considerable enough to warrant switching to that company's credit card processing services. Those customers reported to the BBB, however, that they were promised more savings than they received.

The BBB says advertisements on Merchant Services Direct's website said customers would "save 30-60 percent with wholesale processing," and also boasted the "guaranteed lowest rates in the industry."

The BBB asked Merchant Services Direct to substantiate those claims and requested on Sept. 26 that the company alter its advertising statements. The BBB says it made the same request again on Oct. 8.

Merchant Services Direct responded by saying the savings were between 20 percent and 30 percent but that no documentation of those savings existed, the BBB says. The agency also says it was told that the credit card processing company would alter the text on its website.

Allen says the company no longer is working with the company that designed its original website and doesn't have the ability to edit it.

"It's in the process of being handled," she says.

Allen adds that she and other executives at Merchant Services Direct have been trying to schedule a meeting with the BBB to resolve these issues.

Regarding the press release, Allen says, "It's a little off-putting because we are in the process of working everything out."

Founded here in 2007, Merchant Services Direct's address is listed as 621 N. Argonne, in Spokane Valley. In 2011, the company ranked 237th on a list of the 500 fastest-growing privately-held company in the U.S. published by Inc. Magazine.

The BBB, located at 152 S. Jefferson, pursued the complaints about Merchant Services Direct through its ongoing local advertising review program, which works to identify advertising claims that might be misleading.

Linn Parish
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Deputy Editor Linn Parish has worked for the Journal of Business for a total of 10 years, dating back to 1998. A self-described sports nerd, Linn has worked as a professional writer/editor for nearly 20 years.

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