Home > Business, rant > We’re back. Please pardon the interruption.

We’re back. Please pardon the interruption.

internetsm.jpgThe internet is a delicate thing.

It’s governed by little groups of people who wield amazing power, and who can flip a switch and take your domain name offline as long as they want. If that company happens to be 4 hours behind you, and available only via e-mail, a dispute over a charge which could be solved in a 10 minute conversation ends up being, and I am not kidding, 23 days of back-and-forth miscommunication…

As part of the migration from IEBA.wordpress.com, I registered TechThoughts.org.

The company I registered it with, as anyone who has tried to visit TechThoughts saw, was DotEasy, on the Pacific coast, in Canada. They’re 4 hours behind me.

For whatever reason, they billed me for “Ulimited Hosting” their biggest plan, when I needed nothing but domain name registration and redirect. No hosting. No space. No bandwith. No e-mail. I explained this to them in my first e-mail to their “customer service” on December 22:

I signed up for the $0 web hosting as I was just registering the domain name. I will not need hosting services, just domain name registration. I have paid the $20 a year price before and expected only that. If there was a computer error that signed me up for the unlimited hosting, please correct the error and change my service to the $0 web hosting, and credit my account for the $119.40 unlimited hosting which I did not purchase because I will never use it.

Now, really, in the large scheme of things, $120 is a small price to pay compared to having them turn off my domain and redirect all of my visitors, for three entire days, to their sales page. It makes me look bad and it probably gets them some sales.

If you did decide to buy something from DotEasy, the fact that it took 23 days to resolve a billing issue which I found should have been fixed properly when my first e-mail was received by them in the typical “30 days”time limit. You see, as DotEasy rep Russel told me on January 15th, all that needed to happen was a downgrade of my service from the Unlimited Hosting plan I didn’t want, need, or order, to the “$0 Hosting” plan you need to buy just to register a domain name.

I know I’ll get lots of e-mails telling me that I should used this or that service, or I could have paid this or that price. I admit, I’m not a web designer, DNS guru, and certainly not an expert on where or who is best to register and keep a domain name.

You see, I’m a video producer. I also write. I’ve been writing for decades.
I’m not an internet expert. I admit that.
But a colleague of mine recommended DotEasy years ago and I’ve used them for numerous small hosting projects without a problem. That was because I never had a problem and had to deal with what they call “customer service.”

Getting back to the issue…
So, a simple downgrade within the 30 days and we’re fine, right?
Not if the recipient of my tech support e-mail, Annie, doesn’t think so:

Along with the 1-year domain registration order, you have also signed up the Unlimited Hosting plan duriing [sic] the application process. The Unlimited Hosting plan was set up a month ago. If you wish to cancel it the plan now, we will not be able to process a refund.

[if you] cancel the Unlimited Hosting plan and downgrade your account on the $0 hosting plan. We will convert the remaining paid hosting service to in-store credits for the account. The in-store credits will be valid for a year and you can use them towards future domain renewal or other hosting upgrades for techthoughts.org.

I got a bit hot under the collar when A) they said “no” to the refund, and then B) said that I’d never get the money back. The only option was “in-store credits.” For what, a fleece hoodie? No. I’d much rather be refunded the money. So thus began a series of e-mails, each with a delay of response of at least 24 hours, unless it was Sunday in which case they didn’t respond at all.

Having been snaked before, and with their “customer service” being adamant, I used the last recourse a consumer has, disputing the charge on the credit card. And here’s where it gets interesting…

There were two charges- one for the domain name registration and the most basic of their product lines, called “$0 Hosting.” There is a separate, second charge for the “Unlimited Hosting.” I disputed only the second charge for a service I did not want or need and which I asked them to “change” and refund. I never contested the “$0 Hosting” charge.

So, a proper company would never kill all services if one of them is in dispute.
But that’s what DotEasy did.
As soon as they received my dispute over the “Unlimited Hosting” charge, they killed my domain name service, which was paid in full and never disputed. They locked me out of any and all access to my account on their servers. All I could see was the billing section.

That was Friday night, the 11th.
I e-mailed them immediately.

Please note that completely disabling access to Techthoughts.com is a violation of the terms of service established between us with the successful payment of invoice #nnn Domain Registration… Successfully billed 22-Nov-07.

Specifically #17 “You may access your domain name registration information in our possession to review, modify or update such information, by accessing our domain manager or similar service.” You have locked me out of any such capability, and are failing to provide the basic DNS name redirect that I have paid for with the above invoice.

This is a clear violation of the Terms of Service.

You must re-enable the redirect and my access to the account per your own Terms of Service.

And had to wait 24 hours for a response:

The account has been locked since the hosting payment of US$112.44 has been disputed. As a result, the account has an outstanding balance now. There will be a US$25.00 account re-activation fee to unlock the account now.

So they didn’t tell me how to fix it NOW. My domain is still gone. It’s Saturday and they tell me that there will be additional charges. Not how to pay, not how we can fix this, nothing to SOLVE the problem, they just describe the problem. I was furious. I fired off a long letter citing different aspects of their own Service Level Agreement which promises:

For each cumulative hour of Network Unavailability exceeding one hour in a calendar month, at Customer’s request, Customer’s account will receive a credit for the pro-rated charges for one day of the Monthly Recurring Fee to a maximum of 50% of the Monthly Recurring Fee for the service. All Network Unavailability credit calculations will be based on unavailability in one-hour increments or faction thereof.

Which, considering that I paid for domain name registration, and that paid service was deliberately being made “network unavailable,” I really felt I was owed something. I had no DNS all day Saturday, All day Sunday and all day Monday.
I typed (can’t call them- office closed) a response Saturday night and…

Nothing happened. Sunday went by without any “customer service” at all.
This despite their “customer service” page promising a response within 24 hours.

Finally, Monday arrives and I wait till someone comes in to DotEasy, not at their published 8 am start time, but more like 9:18 am before their phone does anything but offer to take a message. Throughout Monday, I work with Pamela, Cleo, Russel, and Bernard, as well as the faceless, voiceless “billing people” that each of the “customer service” people has to go and check with. (I can never work this out with the billing people directly. Maybe they’re aliens or something.)

At this point I’ve already given in and am just asking who do I pay what to get it turned back on. It takes all day to iron out the various answers I receive.

Now it’s Tuesday and the domain name redirect, which is all I wanted in the first place, is back up and working. I’d like to move it to another provider whom I can call at any time to iron out any issue quickly, but apparently DotEasy still has it locked down so I can’t transfer it anywhere. I plan on fighting this- they’ve already been paid in full, there’s no reason for them to hold on to it.

Hopefully any transition that occurs will be smoother than the experience I’ve had with DotEasy. It’s just a crying shame they didn’t just fix it right in the first place. As we all know, the customer is the most important person in our business. If we make a DVD and it doesn’t play for our customer, we make good and make them another one. The customer is always right, even when they’re wrong.

Whether I was right or wrong, DotEasy failed to treat me like a respected customer for 23 days. Only Monday did someone finally apologize for all the confusion and delays in solving this issue. It still didn’t go my way, but it took TWENTY THREE DAYS for someone at DotEasy to apologize.

That’s unforgivable.

.

So I apologize to you, my readers, for the interruption in service.
It was not my intent, and I look to move my domain name registration to someplace better as soon as I can, so this doesn’t happen again.

Anthony Burokas

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