First of all, I wasn’t going to blog about this. I have had troubles with my former host since june/july, but I thought we could solve it and come to some sort of agreement. I’m a very reasonable person, I know mistakes can happen, and I was convinced they were a reasonable, customer-friendly company. However, I’m seriously doubting this now as the way I am threated by them is, in my opinion, very rude. Yesterday I received a letter from a debt collection office, and that really was the last straw. I feel violated in my rights as a customer – a customer who has paid them loyally and in due time, for the last five or so years. So please bare with me, as I need to get this off my chest.
By the way, I am talking about the dutch hosting company Dreamhost.nl and Dreamhost.be. My number one advice: stay as far away from their hosting services as you possibly can.
In their general conditions it says that their contracts are renewed without notice every year, and if you want to end their contract with you, you have to give them a notice two months prior. My contract is due in July (the 4th of July, if I recall correctly).
Contacting them through their contact form was, according to the general conditions, enough to cancel your hosting. So I contacted them in April and said I didn’t want to renew my hosting with them. Of course I didn’t state all the reasons why, but the main reason was that they are extremely expensive when compared to other hosts, especially when compared to my new host now. Also I wanted more than one domain name, and you have to pay an additional 15 euros for every domain name (this is without the yearly registration fee for the domain name itself), and I didn’t agree with this policy. So I cancelled my hosting for the next year.
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Now if you take a look at their website, you might notice that it all seems a bit hectic. Back in the days when I first purchased hosting (more than five years ago) you would be glad to find one or two dutch hosting companies around, and Dreamhost looked the most professional then. Nowadays the website looks a bit dated, cluttered, and finding the help desk or anything of the sorts is extremely difficult. In fact, so difficult, I am convinced there is none. In the years I was hosted by them, I always contacted them through the New Customers contact form, because I couldn’t possibly find any other way to contact them. So I used this very same contact form, and cancelled my hosting. This form doens’t give you any notice that your mail has been sent, or they have received your message, but since it had always sent my messages, I thought everything was alright.
When I didn’t receive any mail asking for payment in the first two weeks of July, I was convinced my hosting had been cancelled, as I requested, and I was busy working on building my new website with my new host, for a much cheaper price and with as many domain names as I wanted, with only have to pay the yearly domain registration fee. But all of the sudden, halfway the month of July, I received a reminder email from Dreamhost that I still had to pay around 80 euros for the next year of hosting. Confused, I first thought they had made a mistake and calmly emailed them saying the following:
(this is a literal English translation from the dutch email I sent them)
In the first week of April, I have contacted your hosting company, Dreamhost.be, with the request of terminating my contract and cancelling my hosting for the next year. When I didn’t get any request for payment, I was convinced everything was alright, and my hosting had in fact been cancelled. However, yesterday I received a reminder email, asking me to pay for another year of hosting. Please clarify why I still received this reminder?
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On which, I received an email back.
We have never received a request from your side to terminate your hosting account with us. You probably didn’t receive our first request for payment since it ended up in your unwanted email bin. May I remind you that you have up until the 17th of July to pay for your hosting? You can terminate your account if you want, two months prior to the end of this year, meaning before May 2011. We advice you to pay for your hosting as soon as possible, or we will have to take legal actions.
Sounds quite threatening to me, with their focus on wanting payment rather than solving the issue at hand. So I was a bit taken aback when I answered.
I have cancelled my hosting in April 2010, as I already said, through your contact form, which I always used to contact you. I do not see why I should pay another year for a service I clearly cancelled, and no longer want.
Then came another email back.
We have received no notice that you wanted to end your hosting with us, so you will have to pay for another year now. Cancelling your hosting now is too late anyway, as our policy says, you have to do it two months prior to the renewal of your contract. Please pay the following amount of money as soon as possible. We have included a copy of your bill.
In one last attempt to come to some sort of agreement, because I certainly didn’t want to pay 80euros for a year of hosting I was not going to use anyway, I sent them another email proposing some sort of agreement.
First of all, I did cancel my hosting in time, last April, as I already mentioned. I am not intending to pay for a year of hosting I do not want nor need. Can’t we work out some sort of agreement here? I am willing to pay for the additional month my website has been online now, and also for the registration fee of the domain name for this year. Would this agreement work for you? I do not want any hassle, and I want to leave this behind me as soon as possible.
Although I think this was quite reasonable from my part, seeing as I cancelled the hosting service, and they had replied to my requests quite rude before, this was the reply I received.
You did not cancel your hosting two months prior to renewal, so you will have to pay for another year of hosting. We always renew contracts for a year, not for a month. We advise you to pay the requested amount of money as soon as possible, because otherwise we will be forced to take legal actions.
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I gave up then. They didn’t even LISTEN to my proposal, which would probably be most profitable for both of us. What ever happened to customer’s rights, to customer service? In all honesty, I felt very threatened by the way they spoke to me, continuously talking about legal actions, and that I had to pay as soon as possible. I felt hurt, betrayed by a service I had relied on for over five years now. For five years I have payed them in due time, have only asked questions about three or four times, once even upgraded my hosting package to a more expensive one, I have not complained when their service were once offline for over a month (which means my website was offline for over a month), and then they threat me like this. I asked the people over at Snark for some advice, since all of them own websites and some of them even own a hosting company. They adviced me not to worry about it that much, which I tried.
But yesterday, I got a letter from a debt collection agency. And not exactly one of those customer friendly agencies either, but one that requested payment within FIVE DAYS and all costs were on my behalf. By now, they no longer demand 80euros from me, but 150 euros. Yes, costs for the agency etc, are all on my behalf. I don’t know how this normally works, but I think it’s absurd. In one month the money I supposedly owe them, goes up from 80 to 150 euros, without even prior notice or anything of the kind. The letter from the agency seems so threatening to me, with their “pay within five days or we will sent a debt enforcement officer” warning. I’ve never come in contact with the law, apart from the fact I am studying law myself at university. I am twenty years old, the only things I ever had to pay for was my webhosting, college stuff and things I ordered offline. Never before have I been late with payment, and my Mom has never either. It will probably not surprise you that she was startled by the letter from the debt collection agency.
The problem with this sort of things is that there really is no one to help you. Last year, my aunt had some trouble with her internet provider, and contact some government service for telecommucation, which has a lot more power than a single customer does, and they arranged a mutual agreement with both parties in a month’s time. I already contacted this service, but webhosting doesn’t fall under telecommunication. You cannot ask a lawyer to help you with these matters, because they ask like 100euros an hour or so, and there is no free service I know of that will help you in matters like this. If anyone knows a service of this kind, located in Belgium or Holland, please please please tell me. When you are a customer on your own against these providers, you feel a bit powerless. Sure they can send debt colection agencies to you, but what can you do, except refusing to pay and stating over and over again that you did not want this service anymore?
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Perhaps this is all I can do now, get the word out there – although my website is far from popular and I doubt that many people will read it – but what else is there left for me to do? So in short, I advise you, never take a hosting package with Dreamhost.be or Dreamhost.nl. Everything will be all fine and nice and fun until you want to cancel your hosting – then the trouble begins. They have lack of customer service, they will rather threaten you than actually listen and all they really want, rather than a happy customer, is money.