eCommerce capital of Europe me arse

This was supposed to have been posted to a mailing list – I can’t remember which one – in May 2000, and it’s been sitting in my Drafts folder ever since. No kidding. I’m sure I’ve posted it before somewhere but it doesn’t show up in Google, so this is it’s new permanent home. Can I delete it out of my Drafts folder now?

Bloody Irish banks told me last week that I couldn’t have a merchant account if I was trading online. Then they told me I plain couldn’t have a merchant account.

ME: Hi, I’m looking for a merchant account.
BOI: Sure, what kind of business are you in?
ME: I’m in the Internet trade.
BOI: You’ll need to talk to our eCommerce department about their Clikpay service.
ME: No thanks, I’ve checked out Clikpay and I don’t fancy it.
BOI: Well, I’m afraid that’s your only option.
ME: Why is that?
BOI: Mutter, mumble, chargebacks, mutter, security.
ME: Not a concern – I won’t be selling hard goods, and my transactions will be done on an SSL connection, the details of which will be forwarded to me via encrypted email.
BOI: Sorry, that’s our policy.
ME: Well, how about a traditional merchant account? If I agree to only take orders via mail and phone?
BOI: Ok, how long have you been a BOI customer?
ME: About a year.
BOI: Sorry, you have to have an account with BOI three years.
ME: But you’re stemming the growth of my company!
BOI: Sorry, that’s our policy.

*huff* Try AIB…

ME: Hi, I’m looking for a merchant account.
AIB: What business are you in?
ME: I’m in the Internet trade.
AIB: Sorry, we don’t have any Internet solutions available yet.
ME: I know that – how about a traditional merchant account?
AIB: That’s no problem, have you an account with AIB?
ME: Not at the moment, no. BOI told me I needed an account for three years though – is it the same with AIB?
AIB: No, not at all, but your current bank will need to sign off on it.

*hang up*

Ok, pardon the dialogue, but I just find it maddening. Even more maddening is that fact that if I send my partner in the States out for a merchant account, he will return with one set up and ready to roll by the end of the day. It will be cheaper, and it will be Internet ready. At the moment, that’s not an option for us though, and obviously an Irish merhcant account isn’t either, so I end up paying out a boatload for a NatWest or Citibank account through an agent. (Yes, I’m an agent, but I still have to pay the fee boys! :)

The crux of the matter is that Irish banking, government and telco’s are not, as they would have us believe, enabling and promoting eCommerce and eBusiness in Ireland. In fact they’re doing the exact opposite – they’re stemming it, squashing it into the ground. The merchant account debacle above is just one example that has affected me personally. Another is the fact that I’m paying on average £250-300 a month for my crappy 56k Internet connection, whereas my partner in the US is paying US$45 a month for a fast as fuck always-on DSL connection.

Another is the fact that since I started my business, I haven’t got one penny or word of support from the government. And I went looking – I was knocked from pillar to post until I ended up at the door of the Cork Enterprise Board, who told me that I could apply for a grant if I wanted, but that I had no chance of getting it. “Web design agencies are ten a penny.” Not mine, you prick.

Anyway, there’s a point to all this. I’ve had enough. I’ve had my fill, and I’m going to start bitching and whining about it – to the government, to the media, to any email address, fax number and snail mail address I can get my hands on. But I can’t do it on my tod.

As it happens, I actually did get a merchant account from BOI just two months later; two of them in fact. Why two? Because they required a separate merchant account for Internet transactions, at a different rate. I kid you not. And the Internet transactions had to be processed manually, with one of those mechanical swipey things. Remember them? I still have them at home.

I can only assume that the next part was going to be a plea for assistance, but I never got that far. Did I actually do anything? Surprise, surprise, no; at least not on the banking front. However I did join IrelandOffline a year or two later, organised a protest, and became it’s chairman for a while. The effect we had is arguable at best, but I’d be arguing that we had a positive one. :)

Leave a Reply