Learn From My Mistakes – Know Your TOS

Filed Under (Living Green, Musings) by on 06-03-2009

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Those of you who have been following the blog or my twitter account for a while know that I have had a number of issues with my previous hosting company ThinkHost; first with an extensive downtime, followed by slowness issues. Issues that continued for the year I had them hosting this blog. After the first of the year, when I knew my hosting contract would be up, I decided to look into the ending of my contract. At the time they advised it would be up in April; they also mentioned that it would be an auto renewal unless I cancelled before the renewal date. I unfortunately forgot that part; a mistake that wound up costing me a ton of time, frustration and money.

See where ThinkHost, like many companies, gets you is in the TOS. ThinkHost automatically renews their services; there is no way around it. You can’t opt out of it, you can’t stop it, they just suck the money from your account every six months and that’s that. In addition you are required to cancel BEFORE that auto renewal date and for the account to be cancelled, “…it must be paid in full at the time of cancellation.” Meaning that if you are invoiced the full 6 months of hosting, on the first of the month and you call in on the second you technically are responsible for 6 months or hosting at that point whether you like it or not.

I sadly fell for this. I knew the renewal date was nearing, but I had forgotten when and on June 2 I received a notice that my invoice had declined. When I realized they had attempted to bill me I immediately e-mailed ThinkHost and let them know that I wished to cancel. They quickly responded and told me that I couldn’t cancel until I paid my invoice of $87.75, which would pay for hosting for the next six months.

I immediately called their 24 hour support hotline to speak with a representative. The gentleman I spoke with was nice enough, but didn’t sound very confident in what he was telling me and actually told me that I shouldn’t have been invoiced if I was planning to cancel, but that he had to submit my ticket to a supervisor and that they would e-mail me back.

An hour later I received an e-mail from his supervisor advising that, “We bill our clients on the first day of each month. If you wish to cancel the account then you have to cancel it before that day.” Again they prompted me to pay them $87.75 for six more months of service. I responded explaining that I didn’t authorize the payment and didn’t want six more months of their services. Long story short? Their TOS had me by the balls:

You agree to pay ThinkHost, Inc. appropriate payment for the services received from ThinkHost, Inc. in advance of the time period during which such services are provided. You agree to provide ThinkHost, Inc. with current billing and contact information, and you authorize ThinkHost, Inc. to bill all accounts and related charges to the credit card on file. You further understand that until and unless you notify ThinkHost, Inc. of your desire to cancel any or all services received, and you complete the cancellation process, those services will be billed on a recurring basis.

There was some back and forth where they demanded I pay the $87.75 because regardless of the fact I didn’t want their service or plan to use their service any longer the TOS bound me to the payment. In the end another supervisor was kind enough to cut me a break and only charged me the $27 for the last month of hosting, which I was fine with considering the situation. But there is a HUGE lesson to be learned here. KNOW YOUR TERMS OF SERVICE! In fact I’m going to go read my new HostGator TOS right now. I know at times it seems intimidating because of the legal mumbo jumbo, but in all honesty knowing your commitments and obligations are extremely important. If ThinkHost wanted to be complete a-holes they could have told me to suck it up and pay them what I owed them and I’d be SOL, but fortunately they didn’t do that.

I will say however that from a customer service standpoint it shouldn’t have taken this much back and forth to come to a compromise. When they knew I wanted to cancel and didn’t wish to continue their services they should have offered the $27 settlement at that time. In the end I would suggest steering clear of ThinkHost, the service I have received over the last year with them has been less than satisfactory both in hosting and in customer care. I do however appreciate the support representatives that finally compromised with me following my error.

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