And finally…til debt do us part - bungling PayPal tells customer her death breached its rules

E-payments company Paypal has been forced to apologise after sending a deceased customer who owed them money a bizarre email stating that their death was a violation of its policies.

After Lindsay Durdle of Berkshire tragically died of breast cancer that had spread to her lungs and brain on May 31st this year, the 37-year-old owed the company £3,200.

Her husband Howard Durdle said he provided Paypal with documentation including “her death certificate, her will and his ID, as requested.”

In response, Paypal wrote the Durdle household a letter reading in part:


Dear Mrs. Lindsay Durdle,

This is a default notice served under section 87(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Your account has an outstanding balance of £3,240.72.

Provision of Agreement Breached

You are in breach of condition 15-4(c) of your agreement with Paypal Credit as we have received notice that you are deceased. In accordance with condition 15-4(c), we are entitled to close your account, terminate your agreement and demand repayment of the full amount outstanding.

Nature of Breach

This breach is not capable of remedy.


The firm has since acknowledged that the letter was “insensitive” and apologised to Mr Durdle and begun an inquiry into how it came to be sent.

The matter came to light after her bereaved husband contacted the BBC.

He said he wanted to make other organisations aware how distressing automated messages could be.

PayPal has now told Mr Durdle that it is looking into this “as a priority”, and has written off the debt in the meantime.

“We apologise to Mr Durdle for the distress this letter has caused,” a spokesman added.

“We are urgently looking into this matter, and are in direct contact with Mr Durdle to support him.”

Mr Durdle said a member of PayPal’s staff had told him there were three possible explanations:

  • a bug
  • a bad letter template
  • human error

He told the broadcaster that he had been assured that whatever the cause, it would be addressed, although PayPal had told him it would not be able to share the information because it was an “internal matter”.

“I’m in a reasonable place at the moment - I’ve got quite a level head on my shoulders - and am quite capable of dealing with paperwork like this,” Mr Durdle said.

“But I’m a member of the charity Widowed and Young, and I’ve seen first-hand in there how a letter like this or something like it can completely derail somebody.

“If I’m going to make any fuss about this at all, it’s to make sure that PayPal - or any other organisation that might do this kind of insensitive thing - recognises the damage they can cause the recently bereaved.”