The lack of transparency and professionalism during arbitration

I recently had a very dissatisfying experience while using bisq and
the arbitration process. Some of it was already discussed here
in the forums. After further conversation with @cbeams he asked me to start
a new thread about the dispute/trade to clarify all details of the process.

So here is what went down in my trade:

I wanted to sell my BTC for Fiat because I needed fiat quite urgently
and bisq seemed to be the easiest solution for the amount I wanted to exchange
so I started a trade with somebody from the “Sell BTC” Tab.
After initiation everything went as usual.

Right the next day when I woke up, I saw a dispute open with this message by the arbitrator:

So I was given the impression that the arbitrator started the dispute to inform the
traders of the delay we are about to experience due to mempool congestion and since
this was how he introduced the dispute to me I didn’t even think that the other
trader did in fact start the dispute.
I thought this was some informatory dispute by the arbitrator so the people who
are in a current trade won’t panic.

Since I needed fiat urgently I immediately decided to cancel the trade, because
this option was given to traders in the information link that my arbitrator shared with me.

So I figured this would be done and the trade will be cancelled, because that was
what the arbitrator suggested himself indirectly after all, by sending me the link to ManfredKerrers post.

I then went out and got my fiat otherwise because I was sure the trade is gonna
be cancelled as the arbitrator himself gave me the option.

After 24h I still haven’t heard anything from him and I was still under the impression that dispute
was started by the arbirtor for information reasons, since the arbitrator didn’t tell me anything
about issues that my trading partner was experiencing.

After more than 24h my arbitrator finally wrote back. Much to my regret his response
looked to me like one-liners that were just posted to keep me quiet and postpone
any further action. I felt there was a complete lack of concern or empathy for my situation
and I was just fed one-liners that I would expect from shitty/shady companies
with not much interest for their customer’s experience.

And until this point still NO MENTIONING why the dispute was started. I was still
under the impression it was an informatory dispute started by the arbitrator(after 32h+)

Instead of giving me any information about the situation or the reason for the dispute I was
still under already said impression. And now I only get one-liners without any valueable
content or empathy just to keep me waiting and in the dark.

The lack of transparency in the arbitrators messaging is unacceptable.
The arbitrators are in charge of a big chunk of money and they should at least
have fundamental skills of customer support(i know bisq is not a company per se, but
given that the users trust the arbitrators with a lot of money, the skill of good customer support
are mandatory in my opionion, if you want your users to feel safe using bisq)

In my case my trade was for an amount of money that I have to work for close to 2 months
to earn. When I get treated like this, when somebody is in charge of 2 months worth of my salary,
I will make sure that this person will never ever get my business or my money
as he has a complete lack of sympathy for my situation and doesn’t think it’s necessaryy
to inform me about the process that is taking place(was still under the impression it was
an informatory dispute)

So after 2 days, close to 48h, is the first time the arbitrator thought it was necessary to inform me
about the reason for the dispute. This is just anacceptable, to keep the traders in the dark like that.
I don’t even understand why there wouldn’t be a chat between all 3 parties at once and why the arbitrator
communicates seperately with every trader, this is just cause for concern about the transparency of the trade
and also invokes more stress on the trader especially when messages from the arbitrator take more than 24h.

So I got only clcarification of the whole situation from the arbitrator after he has made
all his decisions and left me in the dark during the whole process.
Calling his behaviour a “slight mistake” is just adding insult to the injury as his beginning
of this dispute was the ONLY reason I went out to get my fiat from other sources because like I said
I needed fiat urgently and was given the impression I can cancel the trade.
This mistake by the arbitrator caused me to lose a lot of money now and sell more BTC than I ever intended to do.

Calling it like this and stil not showing any empathy but just a lack of concern about my situation
and how this could’ve happened is just very unprofessional beeing in the position as the arbitrator
is, as he is at that point in charge of 2 months worth of my salary. Now it just feels like he thinks
is necessary to talk down on me while he never thought it necessary to inform me about the reason for the
dispute after he already made his decision.

I also was neven even given the chance to challenge his decision and bring this dispute maybe to another arbitrator.
As it is written in the whitepaper:

I feel very mistreated and think the arbitrator did a very poor job on his behalf which
left me with a severe financial loss and loss of BTC that I wouldn’t have traded
elsewhere, if there would’ve been more transparency and professionalism on the side
of the arbitrator.

While I understand bisq is not company and arbitrators only get payed and amount
from the tranasaction fees, the people behind the bisq project should consider that
people trade with highly valuable assets/currencies on bisq. If you want to have users
at all trading this high-value assets/currencies, a concern for happy users and
and fundamental skills of customer supprt are mandatory, otherwise I don’t
see a reason why I should trust any of the preject’s members if there is no
concern for satisfied users.

A mistake has been made, 24h to respond seems too much at this moment. I have waited more than 24 to Manfred to respond in the past, but we have to think that the newcomers might not agree to that. Bisq is growing fast and maybe is overloaded, but reaching that level of profesionalism has big costs and I think it’s early to achieve that.
Anyway, BTCgambler, I think that your decision to change money with urgence with Bisq was not the best solution. A trade could have gone for lots of days just because the other part did not make the payment or forgot to push “payment made” button. In the end it took 48 hours and that’s not very much. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable with the amount of the trade, you should not be trading it. Splitting your money in two trades or so could have been a better choice. This is still a very new exchange.
The skyrocketing fees cost is a problem now, I suppose that’s in the middle of this situation because a peak on open tickets.
There’s no 3-way message system because it could be a window for scams. It might be optional? I don’t thing there’s a need for it anyway. Maybe optional after a few succesful trades have been made, as it seems that Bisq could be getting more things from a reputation based system.

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Thanks @BTCGambler for taking the time to write this up. I have read through it completely, but only have a moment to respond right now. I’ll respond more fully within the next 24 hours.

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@BTCGambler, @keo, I’ve carefully read and reviewed the details of this case several times over, and here are my conclusions:

  1. It was indeed a mistake on @keo’s part to point you to @ManfredKarrer’s “don’t panic” forum post warning traders about potential confirmation delays when in fact your trade had nothing to do with these delays. With that said, @keo is not being unreasonable when he says you should have been able to see that your trade was not subject to this advice, because (a) your trade’s maker fee, taker fee and deposit transactions were already confirmed, and (b) you could have inferred that this was not in fact an “informatory dispute opened by the arbitrator” based on the content of Manfred’s forum post, because in that post he explicitly stated that “the best thing is to NOT open a dispute”. It is reasonable to expect that many people would have read that and come to a different conclusion than you did—that this was not an “informatory dispute opened by the arbitrator”, but rather that something else must have caused the dispute to get raised. On this first point, then, I believe you both made unforced errors—@keo sent you a link that was irrelevant and misleading, and you failed to notice inconsistencies between its message and the facts of your own trade details and dispute. This amounts to an unfortunate series of misunderstandings and faulty assumptions on both yours and @keo’s parts, but they ultimately cancel each other out.

  2. I concur with @BTCGambler that @keo was too abrupt in closing the trade out. It is my opinion that we as arbitrators should wait a reasonable amount of time for a trader to acknowledge an arbitration decision, particularly when it is against the trader’s favor or has otherwise become contentious. This means more communication back-and-forth on such cases, but it also means avoiding potentially much more time-consuming after-the-fact escalations like this one. In contentious cases, arbitrators should go the extra mile to ensure traders (a) know what the arbitrator’s decision is, (b) understand why that decision has been made, and © have an opportunity to state their acceptance or non-acceptance of the decision. It should be noted here that contentious arbitration cases are rare in Bisq. The vast majority of arbitration cases revolve around simple misunderstandings or mistakes that, when addressed, leave both traders satisfied with the results. In short, when a trader is frustrated, their arbitrator should take extra measures and spend extra time to ensure that that frustration is addressed before closing the ticket. Of course, there is a limit to this sort of thing, and if a trader is being unreasonable or intentionally difficult, then an arbitrator has to end it somewhere. Based on what I have seen from this case, I do not believe that @BTCGambler was being unreasonable or intentionally difficult. I believe that he was confused and frustrated for the reasons detailed in (1) above, and did not get sufficient attention from @keo to resolve that confusion and frustration prior to the closing of the ticket. It should be mentioned that @keo is Bisq’s newest arbitrator, and has had a good track record thus far. This is the first case of substandard “customer service” I am aware of, and I think it is reasonable and proper to call it out as such here, with the intention of @keo evaluating this feedback for for himself and taking from it whatever learnings he may.

  3. The style in which @keo delivered this decision is, in my opinion, subject to improvement, but the substance of his decision is not. This was a clear “no-fault dispute” in the sense that neither buyer nor seller violated Bisq’s trading protocol. As @keo described in his arbitration comments, the buyer opened the dispute because he was unable to click the “payment started” button in Bisq due to a rarely-occurring known issue. When one party in a Bisq trade makes a mistake and violates Bisq’s protocol in any way, it is our policy that it becomes the counterparty’s decision whether to continue with and honor that trade. However, when a case such as this one goes to arbitration and is the arbitrator determines that neither party was at fault, it follows that neither party has the right to unilaterally cancel the trade. To allow this would be unfair to the other party, who has done nothing wrong. For these reasons, were I to have been the arbitrator in this case, I too would have come to the same decision that @keo did: that @BTCGambler should honor the terms of this trading contract and accept his buyer’s payment.

  4. On the matter of this trade causing a “severe financial loss” for @BTCGambler, it is my opinion that this in an unreasonable characterization of the situation. First, there was no loss of funds per se; there was the successful completion of a trading contract that both trading parties agreed to. @BTCGambler traded his bitcoin for his counterparty’s fiat per the terms of their contract. That cannot be construed as a “loss” in any way. The fact that @BTCGambler sold additional bitcoin for fiat in a separate trade while this trade was still in arbitration was his own choice, and @keo nor anyone else can be faulted for it. I understand that this action was taken on the assumption that this trade would be canceled per @BTCGambler’s request, but this just goes to show that assumptions are dangerous things in the context of dispute resolution. It is only logical that one should wait for a dispute to be resolved before taking action on its outcome. I encourage @BTCGambler to consider buying back the bitcoin he sold as promptly as possible. While there may have been some price movement against his favor in the meantime, and some additional transaction costs will be incurred, the negative effects of selling this extra bitcoin can largely be resolved through the simple act of buying it (or most of it) back.

These are my findings, and it is my hope that @BTCGambler and @keo will find them to be reasonable, fair and constructive. In any case, please note that there are no further appeals to be made at this point. Further comments and feedback are welcome, but this note completes our obligation to review this disputed arbitration case.

On a procedural note, this has been a very useful exercise for me personally and for the Bisq DAO generally, as we have not had much in the way of arbitration escalations like this one in the past. Going forward, we plan to capture findings from these sorts of cases in an “arbitration playbook” of sorts, that can help us and future arbitrators become aware of precedents, understand existing policies, and to make consistent decisions. For this I thank you again, @BTCGambler, for taking the time to write up this escalation, and I sincerely hope you stick around as a trader on the network.

Best regards to all.


Sorry for the late response @cbeams and thank you for the detailed write up. I agree with most points that you made and your assessment of the situation.

I strongly agree with most points in 2) especially and would like to see better communication during disputes as you described. One-liners without informatory content about the dispute’s process(or even information about the reason for the dispute as in this case) just add fuel to the “fire of frustration”.

I would also like to see as standard procedure for disputes to inform the trader, who didn’t start the dispute, first thing as to way the dispute was opened to avoid any confusion in the first place.

I also heard you talking on the world crypto network about the rapid increase in popularity of bisq and that users now trade more than 2 million EUR/$ per month on bisq. This is a LOT of transactions and given how arbitrators took more than 24h on several disputes to answer the traders maybe it would be time to start looking for more trusted arbitrators on the network to improve the trader’s experience and get faster solutions on disputes.

This increase of trades means an increase of disputes and also an increase of contentious disputes like this one. Better to be prepared and ready to act before they roll-in all at once with just two arbitrators as those will need more attention. Stuff like this can kill reputations.

On a side note, glad to be the first precedent case in your “arbitration playbook” (beeing first is a good thing, right?)

I will stick around and follow, we’ll see if I’m gonna try to burn my fingers again.

Also would like to see bisq implement SegWit, but I’m sure it’s somewhere on the to-do list anyway.


Got all that, thanks. A few quick clarifications:

  1. We’ve done 2MM $USD worth of BTC trading on the platform this month so far, as opposed to 2MM of actual EUR traded. We calculate these numbers by looking at the USD value of all BTC traded on the platform. We’ve had upstats all around, both in actual USD and EUR trading this month, but a large percentage of that 2MM USD number has actually been BTC/XMR trades.

  2. I always make it a point to send a message to both traders right away when a dispute is opened, to say hello and to ask both parties to explain to me what’s happened from their side so far. Good point that this is something for a best practices document as well.

  3. Glad to hear you’ll stick around!

  4. Yes, we do intend to implement SegWit, but it’s not the very highest priority right now. That might change soon.