Brokerage Robinhood introduces 24/7 phone support after communications criticisms


FILE PHOTO: Robinhood logo is seen on a smartphone in front of a displayed same logo in this illustration taken, July 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Robinhood Markets Inc said on Tuesday it had introduced 24-hour customer phone support, seven days a week, addressing criticisms over the app-driven retail brokerage's communications that were also implicated in the suicide of a client.

The fast-growing broker shot to prominence earlier this year during the "meme" stock trading frenzy with its easy-to-use interface that made it a hit among young investors, but users have long complained about a lack of response to inquiries.

Robinhood said expanding its customer support would help its users feel confident, informed and secure about investing, especially when getting started in trading assets like cryptocurrencies.

"We need to help everyone feel like they are ready to become investors, that they belong, and that they will get the support they need in the moments they need it most," Christine Brown, chief operating officer of Robinhood Crypto, said in an interview.

Robinhood came under intense criticism in June 2020 after a 20-year-old investor named Alex Kearns https://www.reuters.com/article/us-robinhood-options/robinhood-reviews-options-trading-offering-following-suicide-by-customer-idUSKBN23P3JO died by suicide after he received a notification by the brokerage that he thought meant he had lost $730,000 on an options trade, and then was unable to contact anyone within the company to clarify the matter.

Kearns' family sued Robinhood over the brokerage's "misleading communications" that caused their son to panic over what he wrongly believed were huge market losses.

The case was settled earlier this year, Robinhood said in a June regulatory filing https://d18rn0p25nwr6d.cloudfront.net/CIK-0001783879/fed1afc9-fc82-4a7a-8735-caed2497fbd3.pdf.

Prior to the launch of 24/7 phone support, which has been rolled out in recent weeks and is a first for a major cryptocurrency trading platform, Robinhood's 21.3 million active users mainly had to correspond with the company through email, Brown said.

Now users can request a call through the app and hear back from a trained representative, with the average wait time in recent weeks at Robinhood Crypto of around 30 minutes, Brown said.

"This is a human, live, talking to you anytime day or night for every issue that you might have at Robinhood," she said.

(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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