April 19, 2016

NIAC and PayPal Take Steps to Address Payment Concerns Within Venmo


Contact: Tyler Cullis
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: [email protected]

The National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”) and PayPal Inc. issued the following joint statement regarding certain difficulties Iranian Americans were having using Venmo during the Persian New Year:

During the recent Persian New Year (“Norooz”), some Iranian Americans ran into difficulties while trying to send certain payments within Venmo, a peer-to-peer mobile payment service.  Specifically, the use of specific keywords in the payment message – such as “Persian” and “Iran” – were triggering a compliance review by Venmo to ensure that the payments were not in violation of U.S. sanctions regarding Iran.  These reviews delayed the processing of payments and required Venmo’s inquiries into the purpose of the payment.

We recognize that this caused concern among Iranian Americans. As a result, NIAC took immediate steps to reach out to PayPal and Venmo – the latter of which is a subsidiary of PayPal – to communicate the concern of Iranian Americans and to seek a resolution to the underlying issues.

We have since met together to address these concerns.  In a constructive atmosphere, we together planned a path forward to address the concerns of the Iranian American community, while ensuring that efforts to comply with U.S. sanctions were not undermined in any manner whatsoever.  PayPal confirmed the many steps it has already taken to address the recent concerns, as well as additional steps to ensure that such events would not recur in the future.  These steps include:

  • Enhancing their screening policy to reduce the number of false positives, while maintaining regulatory compliance.
  • Ensuring that the user experience is seamless by speeding up the review process when payments do require a review.

We are confident that these measures will address the concerns of Iranian Americans and ensure that such events are not repeated in the future.  However, to make this joint effort an ongoing process and to better realize our mutual objectives, we are also committed to establishing a small working-group to minimize disruption to the Venmo user experience, while balancing PayPal’s need to comply with U.S. sanctions laws.

We both appreciate the good-faith manner in which the other has sought to resolve the issue.  In particular, PayPal extends its thanks to NIAC for reaching out and communicating the concerns of the Iranian-American community around its OFAC screening policy, while NIAC offers its appreciation for PayPal’s responsive and constructive approach to these concerns and to its willingness to constructively forge solutions to the problems faced by Iranian Americans.

We are confident that our collaboration in resolving this issue will prove useful in tackling any issues that may arise in the future.


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