Fledgling Consumer Group Mulls Action Against NETeller
The lengthy and continuing NETeller saga continues to occupy the minds of online poker players, with developments from the major parties involved dominating the news since January. One group, however, hasn't had much of an official voice: the hundreds of thousands of U.S.-based NETeller customers whose funds remain frozen by the firm.
Now, a growing handful of these NETeller customers have come together to explore more direct action against the company. Dubbed the 'NETeller Customer Coalition' and based on Yahoo!, the group has launched discussions, quickly recruited a concerned membership base, and has begun an informal search for the most viable way of forcing NETeller to release the frozen funds.
The group is also evolving into an information source for tracking various aspects of the NETeller case, from debunking various pseudo-facts about the situation to conducting informal (and rather unscientific) polls about how much money enrollees have tied up in NETeller at the present time. Already-reported amounts by group members range from $200 to $84,000, that last from a NETeller customer who generated income as a site affiliate, not through any poker play itself.
Ongoing member discussions also help clarify some of the matters where misinformation rules, as with the magic '$55 Million' number regarding the seizure of funds by the U.S. Department of Justice. Many hundreds of millions of dollars in the accounts of U.S. players are believed currently frozen within NETeller, while the $55 million is a separate sum representing funds seized largely in the process of being transferred into American accounts.
For instance, if you have a transaction currently shown as 'Pending,' that money is likely included in the transaction batches involved in the DOJ seizure. Money currently shown in a member's NETeller account is not among the funds seized by the DOJ, and the disgruntled customers in this situation are the target audience of the NETeller Customer Coalition. The group has quickly topped 250 members with little formal media coverage.
According to coalition founder Eric Goldstein, the group began as simply a way for members to discuss possible options and to vent. Goldstein founded the group as a way to explore the expanding NETeller situation, and the group became "a good way to organize and find others passionate about getting their money back."
The NETeller Customer Coalition continues to explore whatever options might exist, including the thin possibility of legal action. Goldstein noted that, "We do have members in the group that are attorneys that are looking into the best way to handle this --- again whether it means pushing NETeller or our government officials."
Goldstein and the NETeller Customer Coalition are aware of a clause in NETeller's Terms of Service (ToS) that forbids a class-action lawsuit, but also note that if NETeller has itself breached the terms of its own ToS (as often alleged), then the door has been opened to this type of action. Any such case, of course, would likely involve a filing in the Isle of Man, NETeller's official residence of incorporation.
In any event, groups such as the NETeller Customer Coalition are a clear indicator of the massive discontent felt by the company's tens of thousands of American customers, many of whom have had funds seized despite those funds being obtained through pursuits other than gambling. "Bottom line," says Goldstein, "I think this is an issue about awareness and pressure. Between NETeller and the DOJ, thousands of citizens who have done nothing wrong have millions of dollars being confiscated without any real explanation or means of resolution."