NYDFS Issues Guidance to Virtual Currency Entities (VCEs) Regarding Customer Service Requests and Complaints | Practical Law

NYDFS Issues Guidance to Virtual Currency Entities (VCEs) Regarding Customer Service Requests and Complaints | Practical Law

The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance to virtual currency entities (VCEs) regarding the resolution of customer service requests and complaints.

NYDFS Issues Guidance to Virtual Currency Entities (VCEs) Regarding Customer Service Requests and Complaints

by Practical Law Finance
Published on 05 Jun 2024USA (National/Federal)
The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance to virtual currency entities (VCEs) regarding the resolution of customer service requests and complaints.
On May 30, 2024, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance to virtual currency entities (VCEs) regarding the resolution of customer service requests and complaints. According to the guidance, VCEs must address and resolve customer service requests and complaints in a timely and fair manner. NYDFS notes that a VCE’s policies and procedures regarding customer service requests and complaints are unlikely to be sufficient unless they are consistent with the guidance. VCEs include entities licensed under 23 NYCRR Part 200 (known as BitLicensees), as well as entities chartered as limited purpose trust companies under the New York Banking Law, to engage in virtual currency (VC) business activity.

Customer Service Mechanisms

NYDFS expects a VCE’s policies and procedures to provide for the maintenance and monitoring of, at a minimum, a phone number and an electronic text communication function (either email- or chat-based) for customers to make customer service requests and complaints with the VCE. The phone number and electronic text mechanism should be monitored by human customer service representatives (HCSRs) who are properly trained and able to provide detailed information and assistance that is specific and tailored to the customer’s particular issue. The guidance indicates that effective customer service policies and procedures will usually include the following:

Phone Access

  • The customer service phone number is clearly and conspicuously stated on the VCE’s website and mobile application (app) used for VC activities.
  • HCSRs are available to answer incoming calls during the VCE’s normal business hours. Calls do not receive a busy signal and, if a call cannot be answered immediately by an HCSR, the caller is told the expected hold time.
  • Customers who call outside of the VCE’s normal business hours receive a message stating the VCE’s normal business hours and a timeframe for response and providing the opportunity for the customer to leave a voicemail. Any such voicemails are responded to within the specified timeframe.
  • Both the normal business hours and specified timeframe, as determined by the VCE, are appropriate to the nature of the VCE’s business.

Electronic Text Communication

  • The email address is clearly and conspicuously stated on the VCE’s website and app and use the same domain name as the URL of the VCE’s customer-facing website.
  • The chat function is clearly and conspicuously accessible on the VCE’s website and app and is available in languages appropriate to the VCE’s user base.
  • The electronic text communication function (whether email- or chat-based) is monitored during the VCE’s normal business hours, and HCSRs respond to each message within a specified timeframe. Both the normal business hours and specified timeframe, as determined by the VCE, are appropriate to the nature of the VCE’s business.
  • Upon receipt of an email message, the VCE sends an automatic reply email, which:
    • confirms that the VCE received the message;
    • provides a tracking or reference number; and
    • informs the sender of the expected process for resolution, including the normal business hours and response timeframe.
  • Upon receipt of a chat message, a HCSR responds to the chat message in a timely manner. If outside the VCE’s normal business hours, the VCE sends an automatic reply chat message, which:
    • confirms that the VCE received the message;
    • provides a tracking or reference number; and
    • informs the sender of the expected process for resolution, including normal business hours and response timeframe.
  • The HCSR’s response or interaction either resolves the issue or includes an estimated timeframe for resolution that is specific to the type of complaint.

Keeping the Customer Informed

Robust policies and procedures that ensure that the VCE is providing a customer with timely, sufficiently detailed, and accurate information regarding any customer service request or complaint, will usually include the following:
  • The VCE provides regular updates to the customer regarding the status of the customer’s request or complaint, as well as an estimated timeframe for resolution.
  • When customer service requests and complaints cannot be resolved by the initial HCSR contacted or otherwise are escalated, HCSRs provide customers with a means of staying apprised of the status of the request or complaint.
  • If an issue is addressed such that the customer receives less than the full remedy, redress, or other response that the customer is seeking, or if the issue persists for an extended period, the VCE provides to the customer a reasonably detailed explanation.
  • To the extent that a VCE uses artificial intelligence (AI) as part of its customer service processes, the VCE, in a clear and conspicuous manner, informs the customer at the beginning of the interaction that the customer is using an AI tool and is not communicating with an HCSR.
  • Customers can escalate any request or complaint from any AI tool to an HCSR.
  • The VCE conducts sufficient testing and monitoring of any such AI tool, including any AI tool developed by a third-party, to ensure that the information provided to customers is accurate.
  • The VCE provides proactive, timely, and effective customer service during both planned events (such as planned maintenance, upgrades, and promotions) and unplanned events (such as unplanned maintenance and other outages).

Frequently Asked Questions

Effective policies and procedures will usually provide for more general communications regarding common customer service issues, such as through Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or other communication that:
  • Is readily accessible to customers and prospective customers on the VCE’s website and app without requiring logging into an account.
  • Describes the VCE’s customer service mechanisms, including their:
    • normal business hours;
    • methods of contact to make customer service requests and complaints with the VCE; and
    • estimated response timeframes.
  • Provides customers with information on how they can submit complaints directly to NYDFS.

Response and Resolution Monitoring

The guidance provides that ongoing provision of timely and fair customer service requires diligent monitoring and quality assurance by the VCE. Effective policies and procedures in this regard will usually include the following:
  • The VCE specifies the individual(s) responsible for the VCE's customer service and complaint policies and procedures.
  • The VCE tracks each customer service request or complaint, including:
    • the method by which it was raised (such as phone, email, chat, or complaint form);
    • the topic of the request or complaint; and
    • the time from its receipt to its resolution.
  • The VCE provides a mechanism to solicit feedback from the customer regarding customer satisfaction, including with respect to the substantive outcome and the time from receipt to resolution.
  • The VCE regularly analyzes the following to ensure that the VCE is complying with its written policies and procedures and to identify trends, such as areas in which customers tend to be dissatisfied with timeliness or the ultimate resolution:
    • tracking data;
    • customer feedback; and
    • other relevant information.
  • If a VCE finds it is failing to comply with its policies and procedures, or that its policies and procedures are not sufficiently effective, it develops a plan to remedy such failure or ineffectiveness within a reasonable timeframe.

Reporting

Each VCE will be required to provide, both during NYDFS examinations and otherwise at the NYDFS’s request, the following information regarding customer service requests and complaints:
  • A quarterly tabulation, beginning with the third quarter of 2024, of:
    • the number of customer service requests and complaints received via phone, email, chat, and complaint forms within each request or complaint topic; and
    • the average time from receipt to resolution of the requests and complaints.
  • Customer service and complaint policies and procedures, including provisions that align with the standards, normal business hours, and timeframes consistent with the guidance relating to phone and electronic text-based mechanisms.
  • Effective November 1, 2024, customer service policy and procedure documents must be available for NYDFS review. In addition, they must be kept current and maintained for the period specified in 23 NYCRR 200.12.