Coinbase’s customer complaints more than doubled in January

The enthusiasm has been contagious.
The enthusiasm has been contagious.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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When it comes to crypto, there can be too much of a good thing. People have been rushing to open accounts on platforms that trade things like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin in recent months, at times overwhelming the exchanges where they are bought and sold.

Grievances are stacking up: The number of complaints about Coinbase, one of the biggest exchanges for trading digital assets, jumped more than 100% in January, to 889, according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau data compiled by Quartz. More than 400 complaints were categorized as “money was not available when promised,” a fairly fundamental issue for any financial account.

Demand for the six-year-old company’s services has soared. Coinbase had 13 million users as of November, after adding more than a million that month, according to data crunched by crypto fund manager Alistair Milne.

As complaints mount with regulators, on Reddit, and elsewhere, Coinbase is ramping up its customer support teams. In January, the company said it hired Tina Bhatnagar, previously of Twitter, to spearhead a doubling of the exchange’s support team in the coming months, and to expand round-the-clock phone support to all customers by June. She said last month that the company will hire 500 customer support agents by late May. This wasn’t the company’s first attempt to address customer-service shortfalls—CEO Brian Armstrong apologized for support issues in June, and said the firm was “doubling overall support capacity” back then as well.

With so much demand for digital tokens, governments are taking a closer look. At the G20 meeting in Argentina later this month, officials from the world’s largest economies are expected to discuss how to strengthen crypto regulation, protect investors, shut down illicit activity, and still encourage innovation. (For its part, Coinbase has a Bitlicense from the New York Department of Financial Services, which authorizes businesses that deal in virtual assets.) As Bank of England governor Mark Carney said last week, crypto assets (his preferred nomenclature) aren’t a financial stability risk, but they raise a “host” of issues, such as potential for money laundering, terrorism financing, tax evasion, and circumvention of sanctions. Global watchdogs may soon air some complaints of their own.

With additional reporting by Dan Kopf