PayPal threatens to sue a cancer victim for dying, a "breach" of its rules

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“You can’t take it with you”

“When you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

etc., etc.


not capable of remedy

Well, they got that right at least


Nor was the cancer.


I tried to figure out what the “breached” section said…the only source I found was this:
with one person saying that it’s “We may close the Credit Account and demand repayment of the full amount you owe us if you die or become of unsound mind”.
The way it’s phrased, it really doesn’t sound breachable, just that when certain conditions are met, PayPal may exercise certain options. So I find it rather inflammatory that, first, the letter calls this a “breach”, and second, doesn’t quote the relevant section of the terms. Typical tone-deaf corporate passive-aggressive intimidation tactics.


It is as bad as a former neighbour of mine, who visited the widow of the man he had killed in an accident (the victim was a pedestrian on a highway) to ask her about how she was going to pay for the damage to his car.

I say former neighbour because the guy went to jail for spouse abuse. Used to brag about how he saved her from landing on the streets, how she used to be a prostitute. Eventually even lost his insurance agency.


Do follow the link to the BBC article.

PayPal isn’t my favorite company, but apparently her credit card account had a balance and the death notice generated a delinquent payment notice automatically. Her widower contacted them, got a human, and the human immediately canceled the debt with an apparently very sincere apology. The system bug is being investigated so that it doesn’t happen again.

In a universe where software isn’t perfect for (relatively) rare events, this is about all I can reasonably expect and actually (admittedly by happenstance) better than one might ask.


…But people dying is not a particularly rare event. Pretty much everybody does it. Presumably the system normally handles it better than this.


People dying young (and PayPal’s customer base tends young) is relatively so.

Were $HERSELF to die soon, I’d be far less upset by the notice [1]. Then again, we’re nearly twice the age of this couple and death is not unfamiliar to us (neither of us have living parents. Been there, done that.)

[1] Losing her, on the other hand …

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Mr Durdle: Lindsay Durdle has died.
Paypal: Non Sequiter. I require the biological unit’s wealth. The unit may not cease functioning until all wealth has been extracted.


You would think so. It takes the people who specify the system to consider the possibility of the deaths of those involved. I work for Housing Associations (UK Charities which have taken over from Council Housing). Their tenants die. Their systems have to cope with that, with consideration for the relatives and those who may still need the housing. A lot of systems are not specified like that (because they make money and what does mortality have to do with that?). It seems that we (in general) need a systems solicitor (in the legal sense) who must remind those creating systems of natural, real-life concerns. Good Systems Analysts will do that - bad customers still won’t listen.


You may believe that, if it gives you comfort.


I would expect that a death event should flag an account for manual review and put all outstanding automatic actions for that account on hold, or something along those lines so that it any outstanding issues can be handled sympathetically, but perhaps they had already created the automatic systems for other causes and decided to just plug death into the automatic account closure template. Although PayPal did say this could have been someone manually acting in an insensitive way.


Our technology-enabled “slow AIs” with their obsessive and insatiable hunger to increase shareholder value still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to dealing with deceased humans (probably deceased parrots, too).

This is an expected outcome of the same “free” market fundamentalism that insists that people deal with financial issues and negotiations at the worst moments of their lives (see also the U.S. health insurance system).


Well, normally when someone does with outstanding debts, they are just settled from the estate. Not sure why PayPal is getting all huffy about it.


I can’t think of a better definition for late stage capitalism.



I’m pretty much guessing that some poorly paid data entry person coded this wrong. I’m not sure whether paypal normally tries to get the debts of the deceased themselves, or sells that debt to others to get from the estate. But I’d bet that crazygrams followed by forgiveness of the debt is not the SOP.


Yes, but also, this is why an actual human should have to check over any automatic legal letters. Maybe, legal threats just shouldn’t be automated, actually.


I’m sure that no system would be deliberately programmed to be bullying in hopes of getting some grief-stricken person to assume a debt or responsibility that otherwise dies with the person and their estate…