On 19 February, Axel Seitz taps the N26 app on his iPhone, but he can not log in. The access data for his account are not valid, so the error message. Because he urgently wants to transfer money, Seitz tries to reach the bank by phone – and finds that there is no longer any phone service. Who calls the former hotline number of the banking startup N26, gets an automatic response only the message: “Most of our customers prefer the chat.” But the chat is busy at night. Seitz wrote an e-mail to the support:
“Hey N26, my login is not working, I’m urgently asking for help.”
At this point, Axel Seitz does not yet know that more than a month of trouble lies ahead of him. For the online entrepreneur, the situation is serious, he urgently has to pay bills. He tries, again and again, to contact N26 in the following days.
How the bank reacts? First, he is put off by an automatic customer service mail for one to two days business days. Also in the following days, the N26 staff Seitz cannot help by mail, they do not find his email address among the customers and refer to the chat that exists on the website.
More than two weeks later – on 6 March – Axel Seitz finally receives the first information, and it has it all, as extracts from the chat history shows:
N26: The cheater has let us change your number a few days ago. I correct the number for you immediately.
N26: Please get the police immediately. We immediately lock your card and order a new card for you.
N26: I can not understand this either. But it actually happened to you.
Seitz: Ok, but I’m in France right now. And I have to pay bills urgently. (…)
Seitz: How is my balance (…)
Seitz: before that he was around 80,000 € (…)
N26: Axel, I urgently need to clarify some things with my colleagues. Can you stay with the chat?
N26: In your account, not even more than 30 EUR left, sorry.
Seitz: Excuse me?
N26: 12.26 EUR. (…)
N26: Call the police immediately. We also do our best to assist you in clearing up this case.
Seitz: I can not believe it.
N26: Please be patient.
Seitz: I would like a phone number from which I can speak to someone in person.
N26: Unfortunately, we no longer offer telephone service, sorry.
N26: As I said, we are getting ready for you step by step and help you to clarify the case. Please do not worry. (…)
For the consultant and online entrepreneur, who sells children’s toys, begin another exhausting week. A lawyer takes over the communication for him, but his account remains locked. According to Seitz Seitz cannot pay the suppliers of children’s toys who want to have their money. “One of them said that in the future he will only accept advance payment, another supplier has even jumped off,” says Seitz in an interview with Gründerszene. He could not pay his two employees, and he had to put off his landlord for the rent. “That is existential for me,” says Seitz. The communication with the customer service is founders scene before.
The customer service is not equal to the onslaught so far
It is only a single case, but the story of Axel Seitz exemplifies a growing problem of N26. The acclaimed banking startup has recently risen to a billion-dollar business and aims to become a global player in the years to come. The startup is growing by 10,000 customers per day, founder Valentin Stalf recently said in an interview. But observers have been skeptical for some time about whether N26 can build its customer service at a similar speed. On platforms like Trustpilot, there are many N26 users reporting bad customer service experience.
Another case, for which Gründerszene has detailed information, shows a similar picture. For one and a half weeks, an N26 customer tries to log into his account again and again, also unsuccessful. About 40 times he and his wife Judith Bogner had tried on Twitter and the customer chat to find out what the problem was with the account, reports Bogner in an interview with founder scene; her husband wants to remain anonymous. The customer service had not been able to help them. How finally came out, Bogners man almost 4,000 euros have been stolen.
Annual Report 2017: 20 Euro revenue per customer – Banking startup N26 presents business figures So far, we do not know much about the figures of the German flagship N26 finisher. The consolidated financial statements now provide information on sales, marketing costs, and cash burn.
The Verbraucherzentrale Sachsen is also currently dealing with several comparable cases concerning N26. “The non-existent telephone service is a big problem,” says consumer advocate Kay Görner over Gründerszene. It is important for the client in critical situations to reach the bank quickly. For example, if your own account is blocked or suspected of theft.
The startup itself says it should not comment on individual cases for data protection reasons. For customer service, N26 states: Over the past six months, the company has expanded its customer support team, employing more than 400 people. “We can, therefore, ensure very good accessibility,” a spokeswoman said. It also states: “If customers so wish, we will call them back – especially in urgent cases, such as suspected fraud. Unfortunately, we have found in some cases that customers have not been recalled immediately and we apologize for this. “In the near future, N26 wants to be available in chat 24 hours, the company announces.
“That makes for uncertainty”
Regardless of the slow customer service, the question of security arises. How the money could be lost in the two cases is not yet clear. It could be the so-called phishing. The customers are usually lured to a fake page in the design of N26 and enter their access data. A criminal then takes over the account and transfers all money.
Since the hack of security expert Vincent Haupert, who had managed to see the customer data of N26 and manipulate transfers, is increasingly the charge in the room, N26 cares too little about security issues. In another case, criminals had outsmarted the Bank’s method of identification. Haupert has looked for the founder scene the case of Axel Seitz and his stolen 80,000 euros. “It’s not uncommon for a bank that has reached a certain size to become the target of phishing attacks,” says Haupert. “Only the established banks for such cases have appropriate processes to respond quickly and personally.” He comes to the verdict: “Both seems to be missing in N26 and provides for the uncertainty that no bank can wish.”
The opening of Accounts: Banking Supervisor examines N26 identification procedure Does N26 violate the Money Laundering Act when opening an account? According to a report, criminals should be able to outsmart the system. N26 says it sticks to the rules.
N26 states, “In general, all banks are faced with cybercrime.” In the “few cases of fraud”, criminals would ask customers to pass on personal information such as passwords through websites or the telephone they built, N26 said.
The long wait with the customer service has also to do with the fact that the cases of fraud are “often relatively complicated”. The startup writes: “Depending on the complexity, this can be done in a few days, but in some cases, it can take a few weeks.” For security reasons, the accounts would remain blocked until clarification. “Of course we try to process the cases as quickly as possible,” it says from the company. Also with the reimbursement of damages, N26 wanted the customers “best possible support”. A dedicated team would take care of improving security and analyze every fraud case.
N26 finally reacts – and refunds the money
Those who have to pay for the damage are often unclear when it comes to fraud. “The bank must prove gross negligence to the customer. If she can prove that, the customer will not be reimbursed for the money, “says attorney Thomas Feil to Gründerszene. Feil is aware of several phishing cases in which N26 customers have stolen amounts in excess of € 10,000. “N26 is celebrated for its rapid growth, but the company does not handle crises well,” says the lawyer.
Half a day after Gründerszene’s press inquiry on the two cases, both customers received a call from customer service for their money to be reimbursed. Axel Seitz is still disappointed with his bank. The entrepreneur is currently calculating what damage has been caused by his blocked account at N26.
Also published on Medium.