A CoinDesk poll of nearly 3,000 readers has found that Mt. Gox customers have been waiting months for their withdrawal requests to be fulfilled, despite being 'verified' or 'trusted' account holders. Poll respondents describe frustration with the exchange's customer service, calling it slow, opaque and providing "canned responses".
The poll, launched on 4th Feb, discovered that customer requests were long delayed, whether they were in bitcoin or fiat currency.
One incensed customer was Daniel Smith of Stoke-on-Trent, England. He contacted CoinDesk in December to report his frustration with the exchange's customer service.
Smith does not have a verified account with the exchange, although he still managed to deposit bitcoin to his account there. Because of this unverified account status, his recent attempts to withdraw his currency have been unsuccessful.
After opening several customer service tickets spanning dozens of messages, Smith's tickets were eventually merged and closed. At a loss, Smith made a legal statement with Staffordshire police that he said was being passed on to the "fraud division" to deal with the "theft" of his bitcoin.
Smith is also in contact with a lawyer in Japan to explore legal action. In January, he reported that his account had been "blocked" as was his log-in for customer service tickets. "I cannot receive help requests or log into my account [...] Essentially they have taken my bitcoin and have told me to fk [sic] off," he said.
Breakdown of withdrawal stats
Yet, it appears that Smith isn't alone. Of the 1,434 readers who responded to the question of whether they were able to successfully withdraw funds from the exchange, slightly less than a third (31.59%) reported successful withdrawals, while 68% said they were still waiting for their funds.
Customers with successful withdrawals were also likely to receive their money quickly. Of the successful withdrawals, nearly half said they received their funds in under a week. About 46% reported receiving their funds within three months. Very few successful respondents - about 4% - said they received their funds more than three months after making the initial withdrawal request.
But for the customers who still haven't seen their funds, waiting times could stretch for months. Among respondents who were still waiting for their funds (30% of unsuccessful respondents), the median waiting time was between one to three months. Some 21% had been waiting for three months or more, while about 48% had been waiting for less than a month.
What were the factors that affected successful withdrawal rates? When we filtered the poll results for respondents who had 'verified' or 'trusted' accounts with Mt. Gox (ie they had submitted identification documents and been approved by the exchange) around 69% were still waiting for their funds.
This is in line with the overall proportion of respondents with unsuccessful withdrawal requests. So, it appears that verification did little to improve their chances.
Respondents trying to withdraw BTC from the exchange appeared to improve their chances of success.
Successful respondents increased by about 6% for BTC withdrawals. But withdrawals in fiat currency (defined here as US dollars, euros, Chinese yuan and Japanese yen) reduced the chances of a successful withdrawal by about 3%.
Some instant withdrawals
However, some respondents did report smooth withdrawal transactions at Mt. Gox.
Some 11 individuals who responded with descriptions of their transactions at the exchange described the withdrawal process as "instant" or completed within days. All these respondents had made bitcoin withdrawals.
Nevertheless, even among this group of successful respondents, there were hiccups. One individual reported withdrawing 100 BTC in early February that arrived in his wallet outside Mt. Gox "instantly". However, two days later, a withdrawal request for an identical amount of bitcoin did not appear.
Another respondent reported a similar experience, withdrawing 14 BTC in mid-January which was transferred instantly, but then failing to receive a transfer of 1.405 BTC that was withdrawn in the first week of February.
The amount was refunded to his Mt. Gox account four days after a support ticket was created. The respondent then made a withdrawal request again and the amount was instantly transferred outside the exchange.
"Very glad to have got the BTC back and would like a detailed, transparent explanation of the problems they've been having," he wrote.
Respondents were most frustrated with the way Mt. Gox had handled their support tickets. Several users voiced their suspicion that the exchange was using generic, automated responses to mollify angry customers. One respondent noted:
"Tried to withdraw BTC and failed, never showed up in my wallet. Opened a support ticket, after a week, they send me a message apologising for the long wait times [...] they were completely non-responsive to the issue and my questions. I think it was some sort of robot auto-responder designed to make people give up, go away, and abandon their bitcoins at Mt. Gox. Not acceptable!"
Another respondent who tried to withdraw 4.5 BTC complained that his support ticket didn't get a response from the Tokyo-based exchange. Additionally, he was unable to contact a customer service representative through the exchange's live chat feature:
"Zero response from Mt. Gox. There is never an available 'online agent'. I logged a support ticket when I noticed [my transaction] was not in the block chain."
The 5% queue-cutting fee
Of the 569 respondents who wrote up descriptions of their Mt. Gox experience, eight mentioned that the exchange had offered to speed up the processing of their withdrawal requests for a fee of 5% of the transaction amount. Mt. Gox's FAQ for withdrawals and deposits does not mention a 5% fee for quicker withdrawals.
One respondent wrote that his experience with Mt. Gox was "completely maddening", having taken him three months to withdraw fiat currency. According to the respondent, the exchange offered to move him to the head of its transaction queue if he paid a fee of 5% on top of his withdrawal amount. The respondent was attempting to withdraw $200,000.
"Their support responses were full of false promises that the withdrawal would be processed 'shortly' due to vague 'delays' and 'issues'."
Another respondent, who attempted to withdraw $44,000 and 1,951 BTC on two occasions, was also given the option of paying the 5% fee to speed up the withdrawal process:
"Mt. Gox has become a nightmare. To receive timely support requests from them is like performing major surgery on oneself [...] they delayed over five weeks on USD withdrawal requests without explanation, only 'offering' me to pay a 5% fee to 'expedite' the procedure," the respondent wrote.
The major complaint that customers had about the exchange was its transparency, or lack of it.
Many respondents didn't know if their withdrawals were being processed, how long it would take or how much it would cost to ultimately receive their funds. Customer service tickets were routinely closed before problems were resolved, and many people had trouble getting hold of 'live' agents.
In the wake of the recent DDoS attacks and withdrawal delays, the backlash to Mt. Gox has stepped up a gear, with angry customers moving from online forums to live demos and petitions demanding greater transparency from the exchange.
Although Mt. Gox has been confronted several times, the exchange is yet to publicly address the reason behind the long delays.
Waiting room image via Shutterstock