Bans Members Without Investigating Complaints Against Them First

caredotcomWe live in a world where consumers not only expect instant gratification from the online products and services they pay for, but also instant justice when they believe they’ve been wronged. That’s why a growing number of websites now take a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to complaints — removing content, and locking down accounts before they investigate. While many sites try to balance this preemptive practice by allowing affected users to appeal, that can’t be said about one prominent site that connects users with professional caregivers.

Becoming a new parent is hard enough, but trying to figure out what you’re going to do about care for your child when you have to go back to work is another problem entirely. That’s why some moms and dads turn to services like that are set up to help connect parents in their search for caretakers (as well as petsitters, housekeepers, and other “care” services), with those seeking employment.

So when Consumerist reader “Theresa” found herself suddenly locked out of her account in the midst of her search for a nanny, she was confused.

Theresa, who was looking for help with taking care of her newborn in advance of her return to work, tells us that she recently went to login to only to find she could not access the site.

When she called customer service to report that her password no longer worked, she received an e-mail informing her that a refund had been processed for the three-month premium membership she’d paid for.

Wait, what? She hadn’t asked about a refund, she wanted to get back into her account.

She replied saying as much, mentioning that she had interviews set up that day and as such, really needed access to her account.

A customer service rep replied, and said that after researching her issue, she’d found that her account had been closed by

“Unfortunately we are unable to accept your membership,” the e-mail explained. “This decision is final and irreversible. No exceptions will be made to these terms.”

So no explanation, no warning, and no way to appeal?

In an effort to figure out why Theresa might have been given the boot from the site, we looked at’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, which state that it’s not required to release the specific details about why an account has been closed.

The site does, however, provide a list of common reasons why an account might be terminated. The customer service rep wouldn’t disclose that information when Theresa asked, though going through the list item by item, Theresa discounted all of the reasons… except for possibly two.

“The individual does not meet membership criteria (e.g., is underage)”: Not the issue, Theresa is over 18.

“ does not offer its services where the member is located”: The company does offer its services in the area Theresa lives in Florida, so this wasn’t it either.

“The member is not active in the service”: Not applicable here, Theresa had been on the site for a few weeks setting up interviews.

“ determines that the services offered by the member are not being sufficiently utilized”: Theresa hadn’t hired a nanny yet, so she couldn’t be under-utilizing any other member’s services.

“The member has misrepresented himself or herself and/or has provided false information to”: Not the case, as Theresa had submitted all required information truthfully, she says.

“We were unable to verify the information the member provided when he/she registered”: Again, Theresa hadn’t provided any unverifiable information.

“The member has posted or searched for inappropriate words/phrases and/or content on”: Nope. Theresa is a new mom trying to find a nanny, and wasn’t using the site for any nefarious reasons.

“The member has been accused of, arrested for, or convicted of a crime”: Theresa doesn’t have a criminal past either, so this wasn’t it.

By process of elimination, there were only two items on the that Theresa says don’t apply to her, but couldn’t be eliminated outright — only because they involve other people making allegations against the banned user:

“Allegations of theft, abuse, or neglect have been brought against the member” and “The member has been alleged to have harassed other member(s) of”

Could it be possible that someone had made this sort of complaint about Theresa?

Theresa says that she had only positive encounters with candidates she’d set up interviews with or corresponded with — and had even had her mother present for some of those meetings who could vouch for her — so she didn’t think she’d done anything that an interviewee could take umbrage with: no abuse, or harassment, and she certainly hadn’t stolen anything from interviewees. Neglect could only take place if she’d already hired someone, which she hadn’t.

She wondered, however, if someone was perhaps upset at not getting the job and had decided to retaliate by complaining to But if that were the case, could an unfounded complaint from a disgruntled candidate be enough to get her axed from the site, without any chance to resolve or investigate the situation?

While would not discuss the specifics of Theresa’s case with Consumerist, when we asked in general if it investigates complaints on the possibility that an angry or vengeful member might lie in retaliation for not getting a job, a rep for the company said that with 14 million members, “it’s not practical to investigate every complaint.”

Once your account has been terminated, there’s no recourse to plead your case, confirmed to Consumerist, saying, “We do not have an appeals process for members whose accounts have been terminated.”

This is pretty surprising, considering much larger sites like YouTube and Twitter have appeals processes for suspended users.

What also upset Theresa about the ban was the fact that while the site wouldn’t tell her why she’d been banned, it could alert others to the fact that she’d been kicked off the site.

The e-mail about her account termination noted that the site may “remove a member for any reason or no reason,” and any decision to do so “does not constitute and should not be interpreted or used as information bearing on the member’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.”

Then she received an e-mail after her termination that said reserves the right to alert other members of her termination. Her concern is that such an alert might tacitly suggest to others that she’d done something wrong, despite’s disclaimer.

Though it might seem unnecessary to share the news of a member’s termination, if using a service is the primary means of communication you have with someone else you’re either trying to hire or be hired by, it would be useful to know if that person was no longer using the site, for whatever reason. Someone seeking work who ended up finding a job, for example, would likely not want to keep receiving communication from employers, so letting them know the account is no longer active would be helpful in that scenario.

Though Theresa was unable to get her account restored, there’s still a happy ending to her ordeal: She ended up hiring one of the candidates she had interviewed before her account was terminated.

But while Theresa says she thinks is “important and necessary for working parents,” she adds that “no new mother should be treated the way I was.”

“It is shocking that a company that prides itself on being an advocate for working families wouldn’t do any due diligence before summarily canceling the account of a new mom desperate to find good care for her baby before going back to work,” Theresa tells Consumerist. “I understand it’s hard to vet millions of members, but transparency is the minimum responsibility good faith requires.”