A North Vancouver couple who wired money to family in the Philippines struggled to get answers from Western Union when the money didn’t arrive, and then had a hard time getting the cash back. 

Harry Mayor and his wife, Nia, send money and clothing back to their extended family in the Philippines on a regular basis. Mayor says they rely on the money to make ends meet.

“The family doesn’t have any money. None,” he said. “Otherwise her nieces would be going to school barefoot. So that’s why we do it.”

Mayor sent two wire transfers on Sept. 7 through Western Union, each worth $3,000. One of the transfers worked but the other didn’t. When Mayor tried to figure out what was wrong, he couldn’t get an answer from the company.

“Nobody could tell us where that money was,” he said. “There’s a whole list of phone numbers that we phoned. All different. And every one of them said, ‘yup, we’ll get back to you within 24 to 40 hours.’ And none of them got back. And that does burn me.”

Mayor tried for more than two weeks to get information about what was going on with the money. Eventually, Mayor received an email on Sept. 23 from Western Union saying the Philippine National Bank had refused the transaction. He ultimately received a refund.

CTV News sent multiple emails to Western Union and called Philippine National Bank, and an investigation was launched.

Western Union uses Security Bank in the Philippines to process wire transfers for that country, but Western Union told Mayor the money didn’t make it because of a an error at Security Bank.

In an email to Mayor, Western Union said his transfer was one of many that were “impacted due to a technical error from Security Bank, Philippines” and they “regret any inconvenience this matter may have caused.” In a separate email to CTV, Western Union said it was an issue with their bank processor to the Philippines which impacted a “limited number” of transactions. The company wouldn’t comment on the volume of transactions involved, but on Oct. 5, Western Union emailed CTV News to say the issue has now been resolved.

Western Union has an a-plus rating with the Better Business Bureau, but there have been more than 1,000 complaints filed against them in the last 12 months.

Western Union says it’s reviewed all of their call centre’s conversations with Mayor and will coach their staff on how to better handle similar situations in the future. They’ve also offered credit to Mayor for a future transfer, but he says he won’t be using their services again.

“It’s wrong,” Mayor said. “The family suffered. We suffered.”

Western Union says if you’ve had a problem with a transaction you should reach out to domesticd2b@westernunion.com.