A YORK company had half of its business put on hold after payment system PayPal froze its account for selling Cuban coffee.

York Coffee Emporium, bought by Laurence and Philippa Beardmore in March last year, has been selling the popular Cuban Serrano Superior coffee on a seasonal basis for years, also under the previous owner.

But the company, which only trades online and roasts and blends coffee at its roastery in Nether Poppleton, found on Monday morning that PayPal had limited its account for selling Cuban goods.

“We couldn’t move money in or out of it and people couldn’t order or pay. They have closed down half of our online operations,” said Mr Beardmore.

PayPal customers were sent a message to say the account had been limited, which also risked damaging their reputation, he said.

PayPal froze the account because it is against its terms and conditions to sell Cuban goods in line with the US trade embargo against Cuba, even though the business only sells the coffee within the UK, and not to the US.

Mr Beardmore said they were given no warning and felt bullied by the incident, with PayPal’s compliance teams refusing to speak to him to explain the rules governing the sale of Cuban goods in the UK.

“You just don’t expect you can come into work one morning and they can shut you down for a completely illogical reason.

“We will comply, but give us time, don’t just pull the plug.

“It’s incredible that we in the UK don’t have an embargo, we’re being dictated to by an American company that’s supposed to be servicing the world,” he said.

York Coffee Emporium removed the Cuban coffee from its website, but customers could only buy their other products through a different payment company, Sage Pay, until Tuesday afternoon when the PayPal account was unfrozen.

Mr Beardmore said they had lost orders, while another 30 customers left the site after reading that the PayPal account was limited.

The business has also had to pay for changes to its website to enable customers to buy the Cuban coffee through Sage Pay only.

PayPal did not explain its policy in response to an approach from The Press, but in a statement said: “We understand it can be frustrating for our customers when a limit is placed on their account.

“In many cases, we can work with our customers to investigate and rectify any issues with their account without needing to place limits.

However, beyond our own terms and conditions, we also have to comply with a range of UK, European and global regulations, which may demand immediate action from PayPal.

“We then make every effort to resolve the problem and get accounts back to normal as quickly as possible.”