IBill, First Data in Contract Dispute

Gretchen Gallen
NEW YORK – Third-party payment processor iBill filed a complaint against First Data Merchant Services Corp. alleging that the company is costing iBill $800,000 per day because it failed to make good on the promise to help transition its accounts to another credit card processor after the expiration of a contract dating back to 1998.

In legal documents obtained by XBiz, iBill contends that it could go out of business by as early as next week if the Court does not issue a temporary restraining order against First Data.

In papers filed in New York Supreme Court, iBill alleges that First Data's failure to fulfill its promise to work with the third-party processor as it moved customer accounts over to New York-based Merrick Bank could cause "irreparable harm" to its business and customer base.

IBill has been using First Data Merchant Service and First Bank Financial, collectively known as First Data, as the processor for its credit card receipts for the past six years. IBill's contract with First Data technically expired on Sept. 15.

The plaintiff, iBill, had expected the transition to be completed by Nov. 15, but now claims that First Data reneged on the promise and put iBill and its business process in jeopardy and could possibly result in iBill's closure.

IBill claims that by noon on Sept. 16, the day after its official contract with First Data expired, the credit card processor would no longer process iBill's credit card transactions, leaving iBill in the lurch and unable to continue to service its customer base of more than 4,000 Internet-based clients.

IBill had been in negotiations with Merrick Bank since mid-August to replace First Data as its processor.

IBill is asking for the court's intervention to maintain status quo and "avoid the catastrophic consequences of First Data's threatened action."

"Any termination by defendants would result in immediate, irreparable harm to plaintiff and its customer bases," the complaint said. "Cancellation of its credit card support arrangements would effectively put plaintiff's customers out of business, depriving them of any ability to function. Absent a temporary restraining order, plaintiff and many of its customers may be forced to close their doors."

Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based iBill, which is short for Internet Billing Company Ltd., is one of the leading third-party credit card processors for the online adult industry. The company is publicly traded on the Nasdaq exchange.

Nearly 78 percent of iBill’s revenues are from adult entertainment content. In 2003, iBill averaged 1.2 million transactions per month and completed approximately $330 million in gross transactions.

In July, Care Concepts I, Inc. agreed to acquire Media Billing LLC and Internet Billing Co., collectively known as iBill, from Penthouse International for $55 million in an all-stock deal.

Representatives for iBill and First Data could not be reached for comment.