Another GPal Update

On that Cast Boolits thread I linked yesterday, a commenter brought up licensing.  Someone checked in Texas and alleged that GPal is not licensed there.

Ben Cannon replied with a terse “GPal has all required licenses

But the plot thickens.  Politics Guns and Beer reports that GPal is also not licensed in accordance with Idaho law.

Amazon, Google, PayPal, Western Union and many other recognizable names are licensed by Idaho. I cannot find any record of GPal, GunPal, G>, Ben Cannon or any other Cannon businesses being licensed as Idaho money transmitters. I am not a lawyer, but GPal does not appear to meet the criteria for exemption from the licensing requirement. [emphasis in original -ed]

This line of thought piqued my curiosity about this issue.  I wonder if Virginia has similar licensing requirements?

Why yes, yes it does:

Chapter 12 of Title 6.1 of the Code of Virginia requires the licensing of persons wishing to engage in the business of selling money orders or providing money transmission services to any consumer residing in the Commonwealth of Virginia, whether or not the person has a location in the Commonwealth.

Among the requirements for licensing:

The Commission must make a finding that the applicant will be able to and will perform its obligations to purchasers of money transmission services and purchasers, payees, and holders of money orders sold by it and its agents, and that an applicant, and its members, senior officers, directors, and principal stockholders have the financial responsibility, character, reputation, experience and general fitness to warrant belief that the business will be operated efficiently and fairly, in the public interest and in accordance with law and regulations.

Along with the application form and fee, applicants must provide current financial statements audited by a licensed certified public accountant. Each licensee under this chapter shall at all times have a net worth of not less than $200,000, or a higher amount not to exceed one million dollars as determined by the Commission, calculated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

In addition, a surety bond in the principal amount as determined by the Commission but not less than $25,000 nor more than $500,000 is required. The amount of bond required of a new licensee shall be based upon the applicant’s financial condition, capitalization, projected Virginia monthly money order sales and/or money transmission volume, experience, and other factors deemed pertinent.

Applicants must be registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the United States Treasury Department pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).

Well…considering what’s been going on, they fail at the first requirement right out of the gate; as I pointed out yesterday, their own Member Agreement attempts to disclaim any responsibility to fulfill ANY obligations to their customers.

Be that as it may, that doesn’t preclude them from having had a license granted…so, let’s find out if GPal has been properly licensed in the State of Virginia as Ben Cannon so tersely claims?

Um….No. (link to pdf download)

Paypal is there.   Amazon is there.  Checkfree is there.  No “Gunpal” or “Gpal” to be found.  The list is dated 1 September 2010 so it’s not because it’s out of date.

But…due diligence and all that…there’s the possibility that the list is in error.  I called the Virginia State Corporation Commission and asked.  Nope…GPal is not licensed in the State of Virginia.  They gave me a fax number to which to send all the pertinent information so they may begin an investigation.  I’ll be sending that fax shortly.  UPDATE:  FAX sent. 

I wonder, does the fact that GPal seems to be operating an unlicensed, criminal enterprise have any bearing on the validity of their “member agreement”?  I’ll have to bring that up with my lawyer friends.  It seems to me that a company operating outside the law should have no authority to enter into such a contract and, therefore, the terms should be null and void. 

I’m not a lawyer, however, so I’ll have to try to find out for sure.

And, just in case I wasn’t clear enough about it before:

DO NOT USE GPAL…EVER

GPal Update

I’ve gotten a few responses to my idea of a class action lawsuit against GPal.  Unfortunately, that seems like a non-starter based on the User Agreement that goes along with the GPal service.

Fellow blogger Lawyer With a Gun, out of the goodness of his heart, looked into the issue for me.  I’ve asked a couple of other lawyers to look into it as well to get different perspectives, but have gotten no dissenting opinions at this point.

I did look over the user agreement before signing up, but I have to admit that I just sort of skimmed it and didn’t get into details.  It seemed pretty “boiler-plate” to me at the time and, heck…these are fellow gun owners, we can trust them, right?

Sigh.

Basically, there are a couple of points in the user agreement that are problematic. 

17. Negotiation

In the event of any dispute, claim, question, or disagreement arising from or relating to this Agreement or the breach thereof, the parties hereto shall use their best efforts to settle the dispute, claim, question, or disagreement. To this effect, they shall consult and negotiate with each other in good faith and, recognizing their mutual interests, attempt to reach a just and equitable solution satisfactory to both parties. If they do not reach such solution within a period of 60 days, then, upon notice by either party to the other, all disputes, claims, questions, or differences shall be finally settled by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with the provisions of its Commercial Arbitration Rules.

18. Arbitration

Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement, or the breach thereof, shall be settled by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its Commercial Arbitration Rules, and judgment on the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof.

Just reading those points by themselves, I would take it to be referring to disputes between parties using GPal, not disputes with GPal itself, but it appears that I would be incorrect.

Apparently, by using the service, we agreed to attempt to negotiate a solution for 60 days, and then enter into arbitration to get the dispute settled.

I’m guessing that a court would throw out a lawsuit as a result.

Secondly, was this gem of a statement that I noticed while looking over Lawyer’s response to my questions:

14. Limitation of Liability

TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, WE AND OUR AFFILIATES (AND OUR AND THEIR RESPECTIVE EMPLOYEES, DIRECTORS, AGENTS AND REPRESENTATIVES) WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THIS AGREEMENT, THE SITE, THE GPal MATERIALS, THE SERVICE (INCLUDING THE INABILITY TO USE THE SERVICE), ANY APPLICATION USING OUR SERVICE, OR ANY SERVICES OR GOODS PURCHASED OR TRANSACTIONS ENTERED INTO THROUGH THE SERVICE. TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, IN NO EVENT WILL AGGREGATE LIABILITY OF US OR OUR AFFILIATES (AND OUR AND THEIR RESPECTIVE EMPLOYEES, DIRECTORS, AGENTS AND REPRESENTATIVES) ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THIS AGREEMENT OR THE TRANSACTIONS CONTEMPLATED HEREBY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE, PRODUCT LIABILITY OR OTHER THEORY), WARRANTY, OR OTHERWISE, EXCEED THE AMOUNT OF FEES EARNED BY US IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR USE OF THE SERVICE DURING THE THREE (3) MONTH PERIOD IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE EVENT GIVING RISE TO THE CLAIM FOR LIABILITY. In no event will we be liable to you for any failure or delay by us (or our employees, agents, or representatives) in performing our obligations under this Agreement, regardless of whether the failure or delay is caused by an event or condition beyond our control.

The laws of certain states or other jurisdictions do not allow limitations on implied warranties, or the exclusion or limitation of certain damages. If these laws apply, some or all of the above disclaimers, exclusions, or limitations may not apply to you, and you may have rights in addition to those contained in this Agreement. Our liability is limited to the greatest extent permitted by law.  [bold and text highlighting added -ed]

Granted, they admit that such disclaimers are void in some states that don’t recognize them; I would have to imagine that a disclaimer like this would be illegal anywhere, I find it difficult to believe that such a denial of any responsibility whatsoever to do anything resembling fulfilling obligations could possibly be legal…but in effect, GPal is claiming that, by agreeing to the terms of the User Agreement, users are agreeing that GPal isn’t bound by the terms of the user agreement.  At all.

Do I need to say it again?

DO NOT USE GPAL…EVER!

As an aside, I find it interesting that the entire paragraph above is in all caps until you get to the part that I highlighted.  almost like they were trying to downplay the importance of the section that claims that they aren’t legally bound to honor the agreement that they entered into.  Hmmm.

Either that, or the section that isn’t in all caps was, perhaps, added to the agreement at some point after all these issues began cropping up back in May or June?  I tried to find a cached page of the agreement that may have given me a clue, but had no luck with the Wayback Machine.  Maybe someone knows of another internet cashing service that may have an older version of the agreement?

But I digress.

So…now what?

Many people are filing criminal complaints with their State Attorneys General, and filing complaints with the FTC.  Lawyer suggested filing a criminal complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center Basically, I’d say that they are all good avenues.  The more resources we can bring to bear and the more attention we can garner, the better.

It’s beginning to look more and more like this whole thing has been a Ponzi scheme from the beginning.  That may turn out to be untrue and GPal may actually have the money they claim to have and truly may just be having problems getting it delivered where it’s supposed to go.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

There is a very good chance that those of us owed money may never see a penny.  The best we can hope for is that, if this does turn out to have been a fraud, those responsible are held to account, and that’s where reporting this and filing claims comes into play.  It can’t hurt to call or write your representatives in State and National government as well.

But, to my mind even more importantly than seeing justice done in this case, we need to prevent fellow gun owners and other citizens from becoming victims as well.  This situation, whether it’s criminal in nature or just a result of negligence and incompetence, has already harmed countless numbers of people…primarily the very gun owners that the company was ostensibly supposed to be supporting.

We need to publicize this through every avenue available.  The goal should be to see this company never see another new account established until every penny owed is paid in full, the company has been cleared of any wrongdoing or criminal activity, and the current ownership and management steps down and relinquishes control to new management.

If the above three conditions are not met, this company should fall, and the only way to ensure that it does, is to make sure that everyone, gun owners or not, knows what is going on.  GPal itself is trying very hard to hide and cover up their failings, but we cannot let them do it.

The plot is thickening by the day and there are many other goings on.

Yesterday, I received the following e-mail from GPal support:

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

Due to the overwhelming number of support tickets and phone calls that we have seen here at Gpal lately and with full realization that this abnormal uptick in support tickets causes longer than normal customer service response times, we at Gpal have elected to make a more detailed message to help speed along our customer service abilities.

1. If you submitted a support ticket asking about the delays in customer service, know that this elongated message is a direct response to those inquiries. We are doing our best to make sure that everyone is taken care of. With this in mind, if you are concerned about the phone system and difficulties reaching a representative, please note only calls placed Monday through Friday between 9am-5pm PST are answered. All other times will result in an automatic disconnect. Please be advised that a more prompt response may be expected via e-mail rather than telephone calls and that telephone calls are for emergency help only. Calls placed in order to threaten representatives are illegal and a violation of the GPal AUP, illegal action at GPal will result in your account being locked and the matter referred to the appropriate authorities.

2. If you submitted a support ticket because you have not gotten a response to another support ticket, please keep in mind that responding to multiple support tickets from one person unduly bogs down the system. Abuse of our support system, including spamming our inbox (multiple support tickets with little variation on one day) will only get you banned from submitting more support tickets. We are painfully aware of your situation and are working as quickly as possible to resolve it and submitting multiple tickets only prevents us from helping other customers.

3. If you submitted a support ticket asking why you never received a check, please accept our deepest apologies for the delay. At the time many checks were supposed to go out we regained 100% ACH functionality and we will send funds back to you in the way it was originally chosen.

4. If you submitted a support ticket concerning your withdrawal not hitting your bank account within the 2-7 business day time frame, please be advised that due to an issue with the way we transmit your funds and a problem with one of our partner banks, there is a delay in the receipt of funds due to a backlog of our current withdrawals. We apologize for the undue delay and want you to know that we are working 24/7 to get this backlog caught up with.

5. If you submitted a support ticket that includes threatening rhetoric, please know that we take the safety of our employees seriously and we will forward any information we have to the proper authorities should the abuse happen again.

6. If you submitted a support ticket demanding personal responses or attention from the CEO or asking for clarification on his personal life, you will not be given such a response or such information under any circumstances.

7. If you submitted a support ticket accusing us of fraudulent or felonious activities, included but not limited to floating funds, voluntarily withholding funds, extortion or thievery, know that these accusations are wholly untrue and any further accusations will result in your information being forwarded to counsel for possible legal action against you.

8. If you have submitted an invoice to us for funds you are owed and are wondering why your account has been locked, know that the lock is only temporary and was done because submitting invoices to GPal for funds owed violates our Terms of Service.

Overall, please remember that we are working for you and that normal functionality is just around the corner. We realize that many have waited a long time for their funds and that is nigh inexcusable but believe us when we say that we are right in the same boat with you all and are fighting to have your funds released to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, please note that all funds are present at FDIC insured banks, and that the GPal team is working with your banks to get you access to your funds asap, as well as providing upcoming alternative ways (eg Debit Cards) to access your money in real-time. We thank you for your patience with us during this process.

Regards,

The entire Gpal Support Team.

Your business is extremely important to us and we sincerely hope this response has answered your questions. If not, please reply directly to this email or create another ticket via the support request on the GPal website.

Need help NOW? You can call GPal toll free at 1-800-813-GPAL(4725) for friendly telephone support Monday through Friday, 9am till 5pm only.

Thank you for choosing GPal — the leader in transaction-neutral payment processing.

I’m not going to comment on the content of the e-mail other than to say that it strikes me as a bit of a “too little, too late” situation…and that point #7 just reinforces my opinion that this company and its dealings are shady at best.  Threatening legal action against one’s customers hardly strikes me as a good way to do business.  If the accusations aren’t true…DEMONSTRATE IT…preferably by making good on the money people are owed, or at least coming out with a plausible statement as to what is going on and specifically what is causing the delays.  General statements about problems with the banks causing a backlog simply aren’t cutting it any more now that we’re at least 4 or 5 months into this fiasco.  I can get quite a bit done in 24 hours all by myself.  If the “GPal” team was TRULY working “24/7” to resolve these issues and clear the backlog…it would be done by now and we wouldn’t STILL be hearing nothing but excuse after excuse.

Moving on…It was brought to my attention by Uncle that, although still adopting a “wait and see” attitude, Oleg Volk has resigned from his (apparently figurehead) position on the GPal “Board of Advisors”.

So far, the best forum thread I’ve seen on the subject is over at Cast Boolits. The thread was opened back in July and has been ongoing throughout the heart of the controversy.  both “GPalVP” of Calguns.net fame, and Ben Cannon himself, as well as the proprietor of the Calguns.net forum have contributed to the thread…sometimes very colorfully.  The forum owner and moderator over at Cast Boolits has been very forthcoming about the fact that he is not going to prevent people from saying their piece and won’t be bullied into removing the thread or comments as other forums have done over this controversy.

It torqued “GPalVP” off so badly that he resorted to badmouthing Cast Boolits on other forums:

There are people that are owed thousands of dollars (into the tens of thousands) by GPal and there are now claims appearing that Ben Cannon has been calling the phone numbers on file with GPal and threatening people who have been posting about this situation.

Of course, Mr. Cannon is denying that he did such a thing, and I have to admit it seems like a pretty silly thing for him to have done…but time will tell…and the e-mail I quoted above shows that GPal staff are not shy about issuing threats.    These calls have been reported to the authorities.

At any rate, as I said before, publicity is the key.  If you’ve lost money to GPal, file your complaints and contact your representatives, but above all, publicize this.  We want to stop this dead in its tracks and prevent others from being sucked in unsuspecting and being burned.

The Gunpal/Gpal saga continues

Pretty much everyone should be well aware of the GPal (formerly known as Gunpal) payment service’s long standing, chronic and well documented problems.

Basically, they seem to have no problem receiving money through ACH and credit card transfers, but getting it back out can be a bit…um…problematic.

They have an entire forum area at Calguns.net dedicated to their company.  Recently, however, it’s basically turned into a place for everyone to report that they’re having exactly the same problem as everyone else.

Their Customer support is non-responsive both through e-mail or telephone and no one seems to be getting any straight answers.

If you checked any of the links above, you’ll find that either CEO Ben Cannon, or someone posting as “GPalVP” has been assuring everyone over and over and over that the problems have been fixed…but this has been going on for months now.

I am now numbered among the victims of the GPal scam.  Fortunately, the amount they owe me is much smaller than many, and I’m not the proprietor of one of the businesses that GPal has reportedly bankrupted, but it’s still pretty annoying.  I requested the $80 and change in my account to be transferred to my linked and verified bank account early in August.  On August 13, the transfer appeared on GPal’s web site as “completed” and my account balance went to 0.

As of this date, I still have not recieved payment to my bank.  How complicated is an electronic transfer to complete anyway?  I’ve been using ACH to pay my bills for going on ten years now without a single glitch.

At any rate, I signed up for an account on Calguns.net last night, and left a message on this thread* basically saying that we’ve been as patient and understanding as we can be.  It’s getting beyond that now; and so I asked if anyone had considered a class action lawsuit and suggested that it may be the best option.

*Update: the link isn’t broken per se.  They deleted the entire thread.  Covering tracks so to speak.  I have screen shots of the administrator admitting that he’d deleted posts from the thread and I’m pretty sure the thread OP has screen shots of the whole thing in pdf format.  I really don’t know what they think they’re accomplishing with the deletions, other than removing all doubt about what type of business they are running over there. /Update

Within 10 minutes, my post had been deleted.  When I tried to post another comment, I got the message to the right.

Signed up, posted a single comment (a comment that contained no accusations, no personal attacks, no name calling, no foul language, no offensive language of any kind) and was banned within ten minutes.

That’s GOT to be some kind of record.

Not only is GPal having major problems.  Not only are they refusing to admit that they are having problems.  Not only are they repeatedly misleading their customers by claiming that the problems have been fixed when they so obviously have not…they are actively deleting, and in some cases allegedly editing, forum posts to prevent people from talking about it and organizing to get some sort of satisfaction.

I was one of the early proponents of Gunpal/GPal and I’d like to say that it’s still a good company but is just experiencing some growing pains right now…but I simply cannot do that any more.

I removed the Gpal donation link from my sidebar, rescinded my recommendation to VCDL that they switch to their service and hereby offer the following warning to gun owners everywhere:

DO NOT USE GPAL…EVER.

They have demonstrated themselves to be unscrupulous and completely untrustworthy.  Not because of the technical problems…but because of their inept, incompetent and flatly dishonorable handling of the situation from the beginning.

They are simply NOT the kind of business that I would recommend entrusting your money to.  Even if they get their technical problems ironed out, their handling of this situation has led me to the conclusion that they simply cannot be trusted.

Ever.

Period.

I am going to begin looking into the possibility of a class action brought against this service.  Even people who’ve eventually gotten their money have been harmed by the delays and runaround they’ve been given.  Several small businesses have reportedly been forced to close their doors and people’s very livelihoods have been put at risk.

This is unacceptable.

If you have been a victim of Gunpal/Gpal and are interested in participating in legal action against them, please e-mail me so we can coordinate efforts.

They may be able to delete posts and stifle discussion about this on their own forum, but they can’t stop me from talking about it here.

Update: re deleting the previously discussed thread, this is just too funny.

Click to make bigger

If you don’t want to bother with the link or the image, it’s a posting to the Calguns GPal forum from “GPalVP” and opens with this gem:

In an attempt to ease some of the anger, I tried to let people post whatever they wanted again.  it is not working so we are going back to a tightly controlled GPal forum

That’s just funny right there…in an infuriating sort of way.  Allow me to provide a literal translation of what he’s REALLY saying:

“We haven’t fixed the problems and people are still having to wait months to get their money from us (assuming they get it at all).  In lieu of telling our customers what was going on and what we’re doing to fix it, out of the goodness of our hearts we decided to grant our dupes customers the privilege of saying whatever they wanted (unless you suggest a lawsuit, of course…that one we deleted immediately) on this forum we’ve so generously provided you to use since we can’t be bothered to answer the phone or respond to e-mails.

Instead of gratefully accepting this gracious and benevolent gift we have bestowed upon you, you ungrateful b*st**ds just couldn’t stop complaining about us stealing your money could you?  Well, the party’s over now kids.   You should feel privileged that we even acknowledge your presence at all.

Now, if we’ve been holding on to your money interest free for no less than six weeks, you grovel sufficiently, and post the “support ticket” number that we provided you when we began ignoring you, we MIGHT have pity upon you and gift you with the return of your money.

Otherwise: bite me sucker.”

Allow me to take this opportunity to reiterate something I said earlier:


DO NOT USE GPAL…EVER

Oh, and GPalVP? If you happen to read this post…your sig line? Here, I fixed it for you:

Gunpal Changes its name

I couldn’t get the link to the story to work, so I’ll just reprint it here:

HEALDSBURG, CA – May 13, 2010 (For Immediate Release)

GUNPAL, the leader in transaction-neutral online payment processing, is now operating as GPal, Inc. at the website https://www.gpal.net

In order to appeal to a broader market and offer superior products and services, we are reorganizing under GPal, Inc. Our users will find familiar functionality and feel, secured by our Verisign EV SSL Certificate, the strongest in the world.

Only the name is evolving to better serve our user base and provide a growth path for expansion. All buttons, links and banners will continue to work but will be redirected to gpal.net. Thank you for your support thus far in providing a transaction-neutral payment service.

Sincerely, Ben Cannon
Chairman/CEO
GPal, Inc.

GPal is the pro-gun alternative to anti-gun Paypal.  It’s been around since 2004 and has been steadily maturing and growing its services.  It has grown into a very robust and feature rich payment service.

The service was founded by the California gun rights activists who are responsible for Calguns.net and the Calguns Foundation.  The original name was a liability in the opinion of many (including myself) because it gave the impression that the service was only intended for use in gun related transactions.  GPal is, however, a full featured payment processing service that is a viable alternative to Paypal for all online financial transactions. 

I applaud their move and believe it will broaden their customer base and appeal.  I’m hoping to see GPal payment buttons added to more and more vendors and merchants in the future.

I’d hope that any of my readers are already using GPal as their primary online payment processing service.  If you’re not…what are you waiting for?