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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 30929
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I work as a freelancer on www.freelancer.com which is the world's

Customer Question

I work as a freelancer on www.freelancer.com which is the world's largest online freelancing platform, but it has a fairly bad reputation on the financial side. They are currently seizing funds from workers and employers accounts and closing down accounts while not responding to messages other than to refer everyone to their terms and conditions where they say they reserve the right to close an account and seize funds without giving course to redress. A while back an employer paid me €500 for some work done, but the moment the payment was released to me, it was seized by Freelancer, they closed the employer's account and have kept the money they took from me on the basis the employer had displayed activity that led them to suspect a fraudulent transaction. I have been in touch with the employer direct and he has no idea what this is about. My gripe is twofold. Firstly the employer lodged a milestone payment with the site for €500 so that I knew funds were there to pay for my work when completed. Freelancer chose not to take any action at that point or in the ensuing three weeks while the work was done. However the minute the employer released the money to me, they grabbed it. They only do this with large payments, not small ones. They are refusing to acknowledge any messages asking why the money has not been returned to the employer or myself and instead are just keeping it and refusing to correspond with either of us as they seem to think that is their legal right. Is this so? Sorry for such a long-winded question.
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 8 months ago.
Are you asking if you can recover from them?
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Hello - sorry - I never received any notification of you comment so I wasn't aware you were waiting for a reply.The situation is complicated by the company's ever-changing and draconian terms and conditions that all but say 'we can do what we want, we don't have to explain ourselves to you and if we don't like anything you say we will shut down your account and keep your money.'In short, the employer lodged a €500 deposit on the site so I was guaranteed payment when the work was done - the employer releases the funds when they get the work, but the employer cannot cancel the 'milestone'.The employer in this instance received the work and the milestone payment which had been created 2 weeks earlier, was released to me. However the moment I tried to withdraw the funds from my account it was seized by Freelancer as the employer had displayed fraudulent activity, but would not say what.They have closed down the employer account without returning the money to them and have simply refused to communicate with me.They have refused to respond to emails sent direct by the employer to them, so he cannot resolve the situation from his side.Freelancer appear to be operating a system where they ask you for no proof of identity when you register or when you deposit money into your account, but when particularly large payments are involved, as soon as someone tries to withdraw them from the site, they then demand a 6-step identity process. It appears this is allegedly a common practise with this company and it does not seem right that they can seize funds from my account once I have been paid for the work. The employer who paid me doesn't care as, as far as he is concerned, he's paid for the work. I don't understand why the funds were not returned direct to the cardholder's account from where the payment came if Freelancer suspect the card has been fraudulently used. By the way, the credit card company has not registered a chargeback as this was not a fraudulent transaction.The website's terms and conditions are here https://www.freelancer.com/about/termsThe two sections, 15 & 19 are most relevant:From these comes "15. Identity / Know Your Customer
You authorise us, directly or through third parties, to make any inquiries we consider necessary to validate your identity. You must, at our request: (1) provide further information to us, which may include your date of birth and other information that will allow us to reasonably identify you; (2) take steps to confirm ownership of your email address or financial instruments; or (3) verify your information against third party databases or through other sources.You must also, at our request, provide copies of identification documents (such as your drivers' licence). We may also ask you to provide photographic identification holding a sign with a code that we provide as an additional identity verification step.We reserve the right to close, suspend, or limit access to your Account, the Website and/or Freelancer Services in the event we are unable to obtain or verify to our satisfaction the information which we request under this section.If you are not Freelancer verified you may not be able to withdraw funds from your Freelancer account, and other restrictions may apply. See the Know Your Customer and Identity Verification Policy for more details." and:19. Limits & Fraud Prevention
We reserve the right to suspend a User withdrawal request if the source of the funds is suspected to be fraudulent.If we become aware that any funds received into an Account from another Account as a result of a fraudulent transaction (e.g. paid a Milestone Payment using a stolen credit card) it will be reversed immediately. If those funds have already been released to you, you must pay the funds into your Account. If you do not do so, we may suspend, limit or cancel your account, or take action against you to recover those funds.We may, in our sole discretion, place a limit on any or all of the funds in your Account (thereby preventing any use of the funds) if:we believe there may be a high level of risk associated with you, your Account, or any or all of your transactions, including if we believe that there is a risk that such funds will be subject to reversal or chargeback;"As they will not respond to my requests for confirmation as to why the funds have been retained by them I have no way of getting the money back unless I take legal action, but maybe I have no rights and they are entitled to take money based on what they term 'suspicions' but that they are not required to disclose to anyone what those suspicions are.Thank You.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Sorry - in reply to your question, I guess I am asking more if they can simply take money without stating exactly why they are doing so and instead just putting up a wall of silence and closing an account so they are then unable to return money to an employer whose payment to me they have seized?

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