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Online Svc Purchase is *one year* contract?

Yo...

In May I was having DNS propagation problems when I changed my web hosting plan. I found a service called UltraDNS that lets you purchase DNS service a la carte. It's the usual online, automated signup procedure.

The service is $6/mo and provides for DNS for up to three domains. I emailed them today in order to cancel the agreement. Their response to the email asserts that I clicked through a service agreement that binds me to 1 year of service billed through the credit card at $6/month. The only "way out" is to prepay the entire year's fee at once. The other way out is to allow them to bill me $6/mo for the next 11 months of the contract.

In the absolute, my bad, of course. I didn't save the agreement and I didn't closely read what I was clicking through. (I do see the agreement when I start the checkout proceduer again.)

However, on the side of "moral right" -

- They do not seem to document their 1 year minimum contract policy anywhere statically on their site. It is apparently only displayed when you actually go through the sign up procedure.

- Their site does not have any link or button or way to stop an agreement, even if the purchaser intends to fulfull their minimum term. IE, there's no structured way to end the agreement, you must call or email them.

- Any online service I have *ever* signed up for is either month to month; or, the minimum commitment is billed at the outset and is not spread out. Example, at signup any other service would say "12 mos minimum at $6/mo, $72.00 total, billed to your credit card". Their service's billing procedure is at gross variance with the rest of the e-commerce world.

I intend to fight this, I just was curious about similar experiences or opinions.

Thanks.

Goddard Bolt
Monday, June 30, 2003

IANAL however...

Logic and Law are not tied.  That a law makes no sense but is enforceable is what it is.  While you can get laws changed, or thrown out, etc. it will cost more than $72.  [Unless your time is free]

Send them an email asking them to provide the service agreement. This will give you a document to read.  If it looks like the agreement you "clicked" through does state you must buy a year: live and learn.

If you believe you have a case, and you paid by credit card, contact your credit card company.  They will settle your claim  through an arbitration of the bill.  You make your claim, the vendor makes their's. 

It may be they decide the vendor gets the $72, or they could decide that the site is misleading enough that they do not and you do not owe it.

A vendor signs an agreement to allow credit card arbitration to stand.  This allows the CC companies to stay out of court and save legal fees.  Vendors who just refuse to cooperate lose their right to accept credit cards.  [Major impact to on-line vendors] 

Most importantly, the service is free and the charge just disappears from your bill.

BigRoy
Monday, June 30, 2003

BigRoy,

Your explanation is exactly what I understand to be the case.

If you go here https://www.ultradns.com/order/index.cfm?

and click "continue signup" you see the following verbiage:

-------------

TERM. This Agreement shall commence on the date of signing and shall continue in effect for an initial term of twelve (12) months, counted from the first day of the next full month following the date of signing ("Initial Term"). Following the Initial Term, this Agreement will automatically renew for twelve (12) month renewal term(s) unless either party gives notice of its intent not to renew at least thirty (30) days prior to the end of the then current term. In the event of early termination on your part, we will not refund any fees paid during the term. This Agreement may be terminated as specifically set forth herein: (1) if either party breaches a material provision of this Agreement and fails to cure the breach within fifteen (15) days of notification of the breach, the other party can terminate this Agreement forthwith; (2) UltraDNS may change or discontinue the Services, the terms and conditions under which the Services are offered or its availability to Customer, at any time with one-hundred and twenty (120) days prior written notice; if such changes are unacceptable to Customer, then You can terminate this Agreement with thirty (30) days prior written notice to UltraDNS; however, use of the Services after the effective date of a change constitutes acceptance of the change; and (3) under customer satisfaction policies as UltraDNS offers from time to time for the Services, Customer may terminate this Agreement. In the event of a termination or decision not to renew this Agreement, as provided for herein, Customer's access to the Services will end and UltraDNS will not be responsible in any fashion for Customer's access to an alternative services

------------

I don't actually see them stating that the 12 months is the minimal commitment. I take it as more or less just a price level assurance. But the vendor has the unilateral right to change the service terms with 120 days notice.

I think I have a good chance on this one. I intend to dispute.

Word to the wise, I suppose.

Goddard Bolt
Monday, June 30, 2003

GB, what do you need a sledge hammer to the head? In the first paragraph:

"and shall continue in effect for an initial term of twelve (12) months"

There it is.  And worse, if you don't cancel within 30 days of those first 12 months, then you *automatically* sign up for another year.

How fun!

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Monday, June 30, 2003

Seems straightforward enough to me:

"TERM. This Agreement shall commence on the date of signing and shall continue in effect for an initial term of twelve (12) months, counted from the first day of the next full month following the date of signing ("Initial Term"). "

So, the initial term of the contract is 12 months, and you're not allowed to cancel it, except under substantial breach on the agreement by them.

Mark Bessey
Monday, June 30, 2003

Try disputing it anyways.  Often the credit card company will lean towards the side of the consumer.  And if the merchant doesn't respond to the dispute, you win automatically.

(American Express is particularly good with this this).

Voice of Rationality
Monday, June 30, 2003

Yeah, it says for a period of 12 months, Einsteins. But how f***ing hard would it be for the vendor to do one or more of the following:

Tell the consumer exactly what the extent of their total obligation is more explicitly...  such as saying at the checkout in larger than fine print "you agree to pay a total of $72.00, divided into 12 monthly installments, and not cancelable unilaterally by you."

Or, just restructuring it so that the shopping cart bills you once for the full contract amount, up front.

I intend to dispute because I believe that this sales technique is intended to be deceptive.

Goddard Bolt
Monday, June 30, 2003

You could try to find out what they mean by 'customer satisfaction policies'. Why did you terminate? Did you not like the way they do something?

David Clayworth
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

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