Buy now, pay later provider Affirm scrambled to respond Friday to a system snafu in which it charged customers multiple times for purchases made using the company’s installment loans.
Affirm users took to the social media platform Twitter to vent about the duplicate charges they apparently began seeing on Thursday. The company began responding on Twitter to the complaints Friday, but hadn’t posted anything on its website earlier in the afternoon.
“These people overcharged me 5x on a mistake and now my bank is overdrawn,” one person wrote in a Tweet directed at Affirm, but imploring the bank Wells Fargo to assist. “Can this be fixed from your side? I can't go without the money they wrongfully took from me and other customers.”
In a statement on Sunday, Affirm acknowledged it had experienced a “technical issue” that has now been fixed, and explained that it “caused some users to see multiple pending charges associated with their Affirm loan.” A spokesperson for the company declined to say how many users had been affected, or what percentage of its customers were impacted.
The company added: “While Affirm is not able to reverse the duplicate pending charges, they will be corrected by a user's financial institution and will no longer appear in their transaction history in the next 3 to 7 days.” To the extent the users were slapped with an overdraft fee from their banks, Affirm said it will reimburse users for those fees.
When asked for comment Friday, an Affirm spokesperson initially referred to a string of Tweets the company posted Friday afternoon saying the “technical issue that caused select users to see multiple pending charges” was resolved.
Affirm apologies for “inconvenience”
In that Twitter thread, the company also apologized for any inconvenience and thanked users for their patience.
Affirm, a company that has grown up with social media, responded to some Twitter posts with this message: “We are aware that some customers are seeing multiple charges associated with their loan(s). Our team is actively fixing this and the multiple charges will be reversed ASAP.”
The San Francisco-based company led by PayPal cofounder Max Levchin is the biggest independent BNPL provider based in the U.S. and has been caught up in intense competition against rivals in the market, including Klarna and Afterpay. As consumers pull back on spending in the face of economic pressures, Klarna cut workers and Affirm was mulling fee increases.
The growing pack of BNPL providers have been under increased regulatory scrutiny in the past few years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge in online use.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in September that it’s considering “interpretative guidance” to ensure BNPL providers adhere to laws that apply to credit card companies, but it hasn’t issued any new rules. The agency didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Many of the Affirm users complained about the company’s lack of communication about the multiple charges.
One user posted this: “From a customer service standpoint this is horrible. Obviously with computers there will be issues from time to time. That being said no email notice at all! Nothing on your website saying there is an issue! No chat associates available to assist you customers!”
Affirm responded by saying: “We understand that you are showing multiple charges. We apologize for the inconvenience of this situation and are actively implementing a fix. We are in the process of reversing the multiple charges. Please allow time for the payments to be removed from your bank statement.”
To which another Twitter post noted that the statement from the company was “long overdue.”
Users fume over timing ahead of holiday
Many of the Affirm users fumed on Twitter about their bank accounts being overdrawn by the errors just before a three-day holiday weekend, with many banks likely to be closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.
Late last night, Affirm posted this note on Twitter: “We are aware that some customers are seeing multiple charges associated with their loan(s). Our team is actively fixing this and the multiple charges will be reversed ASAP.”
Using Affirm loans, users can purchase goods or services and receive them, as long as they agree to make payments on the company’s loan over the next three to six months.
The BNPL twist on traditional loans has typically been in making some loans interest-free, but imposing late fees if the customer doesn’t make installment payments on time. If customers stop making payments, their BNPL user accounts can be disabled.
Affirm’s loans that are paid back on a bi-weekly basis in four installments are interest-free, but it also offers loans that customers pay back on a monthly basis and some of those loans are interest-bearing.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo said: “We investigate any claims of unauthorized transactions, and work with merchants to address charges they made in error. As always, we encourage our customers to review their transaction history and file a claim with us for any unauthorized transactions.”