[VoiceOps] OT: Payment bureau

Alex Balashov abalashov at evaristesys.com
Tue Dec 1 05:21:14 EST 2009

After some further reflection on this subject that incorporated the 
feedback I have received, I have concluded that this is actually not 
such a good idea as it may seem prima facie.

There are various reasons for this, but the ones that seem to top the 
list for me are:

1) Legal issues:

It was rightly pointed out that the exchange of such information - even 
in an informal / discussion / forum type context, without the 
accompanying quantitative metrics that would characterise some sort of 
"rating" entity - could be beginning for libel and defamation exposure 
by all participating.

It was also rightly pointed out that at the very least, one would have 
to take deliberate care not to stray into "credit rating agency" 
territory, and that the rules for this differ from jurisdiction to 

2) Confidentiality and trade secrets:

Whether you're a consultant selling professional services, a vendor 
selling finished software or hardware products of some description, or 
an ITSP selling minutes or PBXs, you face high customer acquisition 
costs characteristic of our industry.  It takes time, money and energy 
to fight for every customer.  It does not take a marketing genius to 
arrive at the conclusion that a list of other people's customers and 
payment histories - how generous of them to provide such an extensive 
list conveniently organised in one place! - is a valuable source of 
leads to trawl.  One could try to design the interface in such a way 
that customers must be explicitly searched for by name rather than 
browsed, but there are useful ways around that.

This is where the analogy to paymentpractices.net in the freelance 
translation world breaks down, despite its superficial appeal.  A large 
body of individuals offering translation skills in a particular language 
pair (and even then, often only in one direction - A->B and B->A are 
very different skill sets) usually deal with a large number of 
translation "agencies" that re-bill their services to clients.  Agencies 
somehow find translators and translators find agencies.

The fact that an agency may contact other translators for other 
languages is obvious, and their finding additional translators in the 
same language pair you specialise in is not in itself a competitive 
threat;  there's only so much work one person can handle, and plenty 
more than that to go around.  The only differentiator of concern from an 
agency's perspective is price.  There's not a lot of "poaching" going 
on, and the economic return on that kind of tactic is very limited.

This is a very different dynamic than the one that operates in these 
rungs of the VoIP ladder.  Our industry is both very competitive and 
generally involves relationships between customers and one vendor, or a 
few key vendors at most.  I think in the grand scheme of things, any 
businesspeople of even a modicum of intelligence would be very reluctant 
to input their lists of customers for the world to probe.

-- Alex

Alex Balashov wrote:

> Greetings,
> I'm not sure if this is within the purview of the list or not, but I 
> would like to get everyone's thoughts on the creation of something
> like a "credit bureau" specific to our industry.  I don't think we
> currently have anything like that in the VoIP cottage industry, unless
> I am mistaken.
> Simply put, we should have a way of anonymously rating customers'
> payment history and noting any especially egregious disputes.  Access
> should be restricted only to verified companies legitimately engaged
> in VoIP-related trade.
> My interest in this is from a consulting and professional services
> angle, since that's what Evariste Systems does.  However, I do not see
> why this could not also accommodate payment information from the ITSP
> and small carrier world.
> There are lots of potential problems, of course:
> 1) Some customers would consider disclosure of any transactional
> information a violation of standing NDAs;
> 2) The possibility of clutter from small/irrelevant transactions, like
> $5 prepayments for O/T or calling cards;
> 3) Some need for moderation and standards enforcement;  there is a
> very real possibility of abuse by members by leveraging such a tool in
> frivolous business disputes, or business disputes in which their hands
> are not clean any more than the customer's;  example:  I could fail to
> deliver to a customer what I promised, and then report his refusal to
> pay as a financial misdeed;
> 4) Large deals and transactions often already go through credit checks
> with real credit bureaus and various ratings firms.
> Nevertheless, I think there would be a lot of value as well.  And
> while there is the possibility that the existence of such a tool could
> be used to intimidate/threaten customers in business disputes, the
> value of catching fraudsters who go around from VoIP company to VoIP
> company ripping each one off and disappearing into a hole might
> outweigh that.
> My father does, among other things, some freelance translation.  In
> that industry, there's a web site called:
>    http://www.paymentpractices.net/
> It is upon seeing this that I wondered why we do not have something
> like that in our world.
> Eager to hear your thoughts,
> -- Alex

Alex Balashov - Principal
Evariste Systems
Web     : http://www.evaristesys.com/
Tel     : (+1) (678) 954-0670
Direct  : (+1) (678) 954-0671

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