I am sorry, we are unable to accept donations right now

by Michael Tremer, July 2, 2019

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This is a different kind of announcement today. Unfortunately our service provider for credit card payments has disabled our account without any further notification. That means we can no longer collect donations via credit card or direct debit. If you have a bank transfer set up, you are fine.

A little bit of a backstory

About two weeks ago, an attacker tried to use presumably stolen credit card information on our donation form. He was able to try around 300 different numbers in only a few hours before we noticed this and tried to block him. We consulted with the technical support hotline of our payment provider.

Unfortunately, the risk department decided to disable our account at the same time before we could implement some better protection against fraud like this and was not able to contact us about it. After endless calls with them and lots and lots of promises about being called back, I was finally able to get hold of someone who told me that they are no longer able to provide their services to us - without any specific reason.

This is not the first time that an open source project has been fallen victim to being cut off of their payments and it is indeed threatening to the existence of all those projects. Now it seems to be our turn.

To not go too much into detail, this seems to be a case of that our payment provider terminated our contract because of one simple reason: They do not know what an Open Source project is and how donations work. The concept does not seem to be anything that they can understand or are willing to learn. It would have helped us to know this when we set up our donations system with them, but unfortunately we could not foresee this.

Some parts of the banking business in Germany really seems to be living in the eighteen-hundreds. The Germans being people who overwhelmingly prefer to pay things in cash, this does not come as a surprise. As a tourist I can only recommend to bring some cash to wherever you go or you won't be able to pay. Something that works the other way round in our neighbouring countries or elsewhere. Credit cards work everywhere.

We also love credit cards. They are an easy and secure way for us to collect donations and they have helped us to fund the IPFire project slightly better - not as much as we have wished for, but we are doing better than before.

Of course it again comes as no surprise that you guys, our dear IPFire users, are privacy-aware and care about where your data is going. That is why we wanted to make sure that we are using a service that is based in Germany - or at least the EU - to comply with data protection laws and of course is able to process donations in Euro. That seems to have failed. The industry is using APIs that have been set up in the 90s or not very shortly after; they are not secure and they have not been paying attention to our warnings about how easily those could be broken.

The banking industry needs an urgent upgrade

Now, we are looking for something new. Please stay with us, because it might be a little while.

We are looking for a new payment provider that lives in this century and give us access to a modern and solid API, that is easy to use and most importantly: secure. We need someone who understands how Open Source projects work, how crowd-funding works and who supports us with our fundraising efforts. Finally, we also want to make sure that we can do all these things within the legal boundaries of the European Union and provide you with the most privacy-focussed way to donate.

That is why we prefer bank transfers as they are very very common in Germany, Austria and Switzerland; as well as credit cards which are simply the most common payment method in the world. We also want to offer direct debit, because it is a cheaper than credit cards.

But we do not want to use PayPal who have a very bad track-record of supporting Open Source projects. We do not want to use any fancy startup payment methods or use other large corporations to process those because this is entirely unnecessary to share our donors with them and is not even cheaper. Ultimately we want that most of your donations is invested into the project and not spent on payment processing fees.

The company with whom we did those payments before definitely is not the right partner - I am not going to name them, because this particular problem is in my view more a problem of the whole industry than only with this company. In the past there have been various problems and communication has always been a huge struggle. In fact, I have never been treated so badly and have never heard so many excuses for their poor service in all of my professional career.

So to close this whole matter I would like to apologise for my fellow team members, who would have benefitted immensely from those donations that we now won't have for some time. To our donors who are supporting us and who are now going to be inconvenienced by this.

I hope that we will be able to continue collecting your recurring donations as soon as we are set up with someone new and that we can then spend our time on actually working on IPFire.