Guest Author - Lisa Shea
I own and run many large sites, including a site on ASP development, another site that helps webmasters learn coding techniques, and BellaOnline.com, which receives over 20 million pageviews a month. Because of the large traffic on my sites, I have many dedicated servers which I keep in numerous hosting facilities to allow for back-up in times of outage.
One of these servers was begun with the ServerPronto.com hosting system, owned by InfoLink.com, in November 2004. Here is my review of my dealings with ServerPronto. I always had the system auto-pay monthly to my credit card. As you can see, hosting with ServerPronto went relatively smoothly in the beginning - and went into a sharp nosedive in 2007.
11/5/2004 - Attempting to be helpful, I identified several typos I found on the ServerPronto website and alerted the staff.
11/29/2004 - I asked ServerPronto to set up reverse DNS for me. They did promptly.
12/5/2004 - my ServerPronto monthly bill is $123.64.
2/14/2005 - Another person in ServerPronto's network was a spammer, and ORDB blocked the entire network - including my site. When I complained to ServerPronto that my email could no longer send out properly, they told me I should relay through their servers. They would not talk to the ORDB team at all. Their relay idea was an invalid solution, as many companies block relayers as being probable spammers. Eventually ORDB removed the block.
2/28/2005 - My site went down. ServerPronto rebooted it.
3/7/2005 - My ServerPronto bill is now $123.91. This cost slides up slowly over time, without any warning. Note that this is not based on usage - I am still well within their bandwidth requirements.
3/9/2005 - I complained to ServerPronto about a site outage. The ServerPronto router caused the outage, which they said they would credit me for. My next bill was for $123.67. No credit was shown on the invoice. Note that I complained at 2:36pm - and did not hear any response until 5:04pm.
A full year elapsed with smooth performance.
3/11/2006 - From 3/11 to 3/14 I had HUGE problems with the server being very slow and crashing. It had to be rebooted several times. At one point, on March 10 at 7:57pm, I put in an urgent query about the issue - and put updates in after 2 hours, and then after 7 hours. I only heard back from them at 9:26am the next morning. In another case, I put in an urgent call for help and it was 1 1/2 hrs before ServerPronto responded.
I asked ServerPronto to add a second hard drive to help alleviate the server's processing issues. It took them 10 months to actually do this.
3/21/2006 - My server went down, and I asked ServerPronto to reboot it.
4/4/2006 - My server went down, and I asked ServerPronto to reboot it.
4/5/2006 - ServerPronto charged me twice - two payments of $123.91. I didn't notice it - lesson to me to always verify charges on your credit card. The error was not fixed until 9 months later.
4/5/2006 - ServerPronto sent me an email that my auto-billing credit card was about to expire and that they needed an update. I did the update. This update worked fine until February 2007, when ServerPronto spontaneously began not processing the card.
6/26/2006 - My server went down, and I asked ServerPronto to reboot it. My other servers in other hosting facilities are actively watched by the technicians there. Apparently ServerPronto does not do this by default. I asked them if they could perform the service. They said they would for an extra $20/month. I asked them to please do this - but they never did.
7/18/2006 - A person who had subscribed to one of my newsletters suddenly reported that newsletter as a spam message to ServerPronto. ServerPronto then wrote me to threaten me with being shut down, as I was a spammer. I explained to ServerPronto that my newsletters were all sign-up only, and that I had the date, time and IP address of that person's signing up.
9/8/2006 - I wrote in to ServerPronto asking for a status on my second hard drive, to help reduce the load on the server's main hard drive. ServerPronto said they were looking into it. They did not address this until over 4 months later.
10/5/2006 - ServerPronto bill is now $124.15.
10/17/2006 - I complained to ServerPronto at 12:21pm about the server itself behaving poorly. It wasn't until 7:14pm that I got a response - I was told that it must be something on my ISP's end, as their network was fine.
12/5/2006 - ServerPronto bill is now $125.83. Why is it increasing? Their terms of service state "Subscriber is aware that the Company may prospectively change the specified rates and charges from time to time." It is one thing to change rates - it is another thing to do so without any notice or warning.
1/6/2007 - ServerPronto bill auto bills smoothly at the $125.83.
1/14/2007 - ServerPronto *finally* installed a second hard drive I'd been asking for for months. They also realized they'd double charged me back in LAST April (for $123.91). They said they would give me credit for that mistake on their part.
2/5/2007 - The ServerPronto monthly bill came in for $127.63, at 12:23am. My bills auto-pay so this shouldn't have been a problem. They had been auto paying for over 2 years. ALSO I supposedly had a credit as just mentioned. Somehow they not only ignored my credit but also did not auto pay. This is with a credit card that is used for all my business accounts and has quite a large credit limit. I got a past due balance warning only a few hours later, at 4:20am.
2/6/2007 - I received a suspension warning at 4:20am. I put in a support ticket and on 2/7/2007 was told to call my credit card in (again) to their phone #. Their online system won't let you update the credit card. I tried to call in. Literally NOBODY answered - no answering machine, nothing. I had to call back in again the next day to finally reach a human, and give them my card number .
2/11/2007 - I received a "final notice" that I was going to be suspended - despite having called in with my credit card to them!
2/13/2007 - I got an outstanding balance note, for InvNum: 74419, claiming I had paid $0.00. I emailed in asking what was going on.
2/15/2007 - Thank God I was online this morning, because at 6:41am they took the server down without any other notes or warning. I immediately wrote them. They wrote back saying in essence "sorry, too bad." I tried to call in to customer service - and NOBODY ANSWERED THE PHONES!! I left messages. After a series of email messages and messages, they sorted it out. I got a message from ServerPronto saying:
"your account has been adjusted
we appologize for the delay and tahnk you for your patience "
Note that looking at the account entry, the ServerPronto put the following note on this invoice:
"this invoice was supposed to be canceled by a credit on her account
the credit did not take place, he server was suspended, she got pissed
this might fix the problem"
At this point I alerted ServerPronto that I was moving my site elsewhere as I could not rely on them going forward. Since it was mid-month, I figured I would still have to pay for the subsequent month, that undoubtedly they would claim I had to give them 30 days notice. So I resigned myself to paying for this account from mid-February all the way through early April, when the subsequent billing cycle would begin.
NOTE: Here is the exact terms for cancellation as listed in their online terms of service: "7. Account Cancellation: Requests for canceling accounts may be made in writing with at least 30 days notice but not more than 60 days prior written notice and sent to
2400 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
You must have all account information to cancel."
Note it says nothing about providing a FAX version or a credit card.
3/5/2007 - Remember, I am still set up to auto-pay each month. On 3/5/2007 I get my ServerPronto invoice alert, that I have a $3.72 credit (From what??) and that my bill is for $124.13. That means my monthly bill is now $127.85. Just like clockwork, four hours later I get my past due balance warning. In fact, I get 2 copies of the message.
3/6/2007 - The ServerPronto suspension warning comes in. I am completely baffled. They had hand received my credit card last month, *and* I had hand-entered it into their system, as an auto pay. Everything had been working fine until now. What was ServerPronto doing wrong?
3/12/2007 - I get a final warning from ServerPronto. Frustrated, I log into their interface and re-enter everything AGAIN. It processes.
3/12/2007 - my credit card report verifies that they received their payment on 3/12/2007. It is now for $124.13.
4/5/2007 - I get another invoice, followed 4 hours later by a past due balance. At this point we have hit the cancellation date - so why is ServerPronto still invoicing me?
4/6/2007 - A suspension warning arrives in the email from ServerPronto. I start my usual round of emailing to sort this out.
4/10/2007 - I finally get a response from someone in ServerPronto technical support, telling me to fax in paperwork to confirm my cancellation.
4/10/2007 - I print out and FAX their cancellation form in to them immediately. Note that their form claims they *require* a credit card number from you in order to cancel. I do not believe it is legal in any state in the US to require a credit card number in order to cancel from a contract. I checked my order form where I signed up for service in November 2004. It did not state either that they needed a FAX to cancel service nor that they would require a credit card in order to do so.
4/11/2007 - I get a cancellation warning. They are now warning me that I've cancelled. Or that they might cancel me, which is what I've been asking them to do for almost 2 months now.
4/26/2007 - At 1:26am ServerPronto sent me an invoice for an *additional* $300 for non-payment. According to their Terms of Service, "Service will be interrupted on accounts that reach 10 days past due. Service interrupted for nonpayment is subject to a $200 reconnect charge. Accounts not paid by due date are subject to a $7.95 late fee." Nowhere do they list a $300 non-payment fee.
4/26/2007 - I immediately called in to the ServerPronto number and left a message with an answering service, asking to talk to a human being about this ongoing situation. They said they would pass that right to the office staff.
4/26/2007 - just to ensure that my message was reaching someone, I also re-opened the cancellation reminder ticket that I opened back on 4/10/2007 and added this text to it:
I alerted ServerPronto more than 30 days ago that I could not tolerate the lack of response and multi-hour delay before server issues were addressed. I stated that this account was to be cancelled as soon as possible. I have sent in email messages. I have left voice messages. When you told me - over 30 days later - that you now wanted a fax sent in to confirm, I sent in your fax form.
I will start calling every hour on the hour starting open of business today until I reach a human being at ServerPronto to address this issue. If I do not reach a human sometime today, I will be providing a full copy of all documentation of the issues over the past years to my legal team and turning the issue over to them.
Here are just a few of the issues. First, I do not believe it is legal to require a credit card number in order to cancel a contract. Next, if a cancellation request is received, it is not legal to wait 30 days and then instruct that something else must be done for it to be accepted, in another 30 days. Next, my account was previously shut down without cause. In fact, the billing mistake was due to you double-billing me almost a year previously. Next, I was told I would receive credit for a router outage which I never received. Numerous other issues have been documented by me over the years. I have compiled the full suite of material as regards contract breaches on the part of ServerPronto.
It is the purpose of BellaOnline - the site I run with 20 million pageviews a month - to address consumer injustice. It is ironic that a key issue our site may be now covering over the next coming months will involve a hosting company we ourselves were using. I am attempting to forestall that situation.
Further research into your live, published terms of service has shown that both your recent $300 "late" charge as well as your FAX version requirement of the cancellation letter are clearly against your own terms of service.
As of 4/26/07, InfoLink has a Bad Rating with the Better Business Bureau for not responding to issues and customer complaints. The BBB has received numerous complaints about InfoLink, which is ServerPronto's parent company.