back to article Dreamhost billing cock-up shocks customer bank accounts

Customers of the Los Angeles-based web hosting provider Dreamhost awoke to an unwelcome pang in their wallets today. A late-night accounting cock-up caused every customer to be charged a year's worth of truant payments when the wrong date was slipped in its automated billing program. On Dreamhost's blog, the provider pinned the …

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I got a ton of emails!

I operate multiple accounts for several clients and got a stack of email this morning. I immediately noticed that they were charging for 2008, but fortunately, I've set most of the account to NOT auto-bill my clients credit cards! i think this has only really affected one of my clients and I've just received an email from them copying the Dreamhost email saying sorry and we've refunded you.

I've been with Dreamhost for about 4 years now and apart from some reliability issues in 2006 which were apparently caused by the datacentre building managers and power issues, I've been a very happy customer.

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Peanuts - Hull takes 900,000 UKP

" Angry city councillors are calling for a full investigation into how the authority mistakenly withdrew £900,000 from residents' accounts.

As the Mail reported yesterday, about 9,500 unauthorised automated transactions were carried out by the council earlier this week."

http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=136730&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136541&contentPK=19527439&folderPk=79656&pNodeId=243835

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I forgive them

I had an email about how I was overdue $198 this morning and put it to one side to look up what I was meant to be paying them and when. By the time I got to the office there was an amusing and apologetic email correcting the error.

I hope they didn't charge and re-credit my Visa though, because doing that can sometimes generate a currency loss of around 10% of the payment.

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So it wasn't just me...

Heh, I'm approaching the end of my first billing period with them and was watching with a careful eye to see if there were any mistakes. Lo and behold, I thought, they've gone and invoiced me. Fortunately, I sent an email questioning it and received a friendly & apologetic reply.

Thankfully, I wasn't billed or anything like that. I can only imagine my rage had something like that happened, so for those who were billed it must be a traumatic experience.

I've found them to be alright so far. I guess you have to expect certain things when you pay so little for what's advertised. $22.40 for a year?!

Hope it get's sorted alright :(

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Ed
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Me too...

I was billed for 2008 too, I haven't heard anything from Dreamhost apologising for it either.

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Hmm

Having looked at his pic, would you trust that guy with your bank details...?

As long as all their customers take their light-hearted tone in as good humour as the posters above, fine. Personally, I would probably have a distinct sense of humour failure at this point.

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Flame

Not just one year...

I think their cockup was worse than they're saying actually, I not only got billed for all of 2008, I was DOUBLE BILLED for all of 2008. Add in a couple of domain registrations it also automatically billed me for and I got hit for right at $500.

Fortunately it didn't screw up my finances, but I think this mess is going to cost them dearly. I wouldn't be surprised if covering all the overdraft fees they generated bankrupts them.

(For the inevitable claims that no fees would be incurred, you obviously never dealt with my bank who once charged me an overdraft on a check that came in because there was a pending transaction on my check card... even though there was enough in there to cover the check and a deposit was also pending that more than covered both. They did refund that one but claimed it's their standard policy, so with this Dreamhost mess they'd count me down $500 and charge me overdrafts on anything else that came through. Some banks are flat out evil, and those who have the misfortune to be stuck with an evil one when Dreamhost overcharged them may be in serious financial trouble at the moment.)

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Well

I'd have preferred to have heard about it from Dreamhost themselves. I emailed them this morning when I received my email telling me I'd been charged so much. I've only just switched to monthly payments too so I was baffled as to how I got charged for a years

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I was billed twice too!

Not impressed. I got their apology email but I've just closed the account now (I had a month left to run on it, they can keep the remaining $ credit!)

I'll stick the domain on nearlyfreespeech with my other domains for now.

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They Got me Too ...

... But I'm happy to accept their freely-offered apology and grovelling.

How many other companies not only hold their hands up, but actually apologise?

And it's their first serious c*ck-up in ten years, which also compares well with most companies I connect with.

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Happy

Phew!

I got clobbered for two years worth too... but the credit card I was using had expired in the interim. So then I got a nice generated email telling me my account was in arrears.

After sending a WTF? query off to them, I got a nice apology as well. Yet another reason for not setting up a direct debit to one's bank account, though. I'd be severely peeved if I'd been charged an overdrawn fee due to the cockup.

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Hey

Ian + Anon#3:

Could you post some identifying details, so if I ever feel tempted to sell you anything I know to steer well clear. Mistakes happen, they fixed and apologised, 95% of people are happy, the remaining 5% you don't want as customers.

Actually, maybe this was a deliberate flushing exercise to find that out?

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Sanity checks? Who needs sanity checks?

I worked with an ISP billing system a few years. We were usually quiet about billing errors. In one case, some bad data from the dial-up server resulted in billing someone for a session starting in 1947! The charge was some $300K.

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They aren't a bad company really

At least they explained in graphic detail what went wrong so that we knew where we stood.

Personally I'm not out of pocket because my credit card had cunningly expired since I last renewed, so I just got the warning message about not being able to bill it automatically. Obviously I can see how this makes people mad, but shit happens and they are dealing with it.

On the plus side, they are one of the few companies I'd recommend to friends. You get a lot for your money and it pretty much works as it should. There's a long list of incompetent fuckwits I'd put the boot into before Dreamhosts, put it that way.

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So very very close to disaster... for them

Luckily, I hadn't updated my card details from last year and they couldn't bill my old account.

This is amateur hour crap.

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Anonymous Coward

Not pleased.

I managed to dodge this bullet through not being due for any renewal fees in 2008 but I'm still not happy. It's definitely not DH's "first mistake in 10 years" as one poster put it above. Perhaps a PR manager might be a good hire for them, or just someone with enough sense to say "Hey, we've mistakenly charged people to a total of $7.5 million. Maybe we shouldn't appear so flippant about this."

As I posted on the DH blog:

So in the past 18 months we've had a month long outage¹, a massive leak of people's passwords², and now the billing snafu.

People take their web sites, email, and the other services their host provides very seriously. Some of them are using it to run their business; others are using it for pleasure. Either way, for better or worse, people care about it. Maybe they shouldn't³, but they do. Most of them just want it to seem like the host cares as well. The jokes come off like a sniggering schoolboy - something doubly inexcusable because you're not just affecting people's online world but their bank accounts too.

People will forgive the mistakes up to a point (it's a different point for everyone), but laughing at your own mistakes that cost people time, money, and hassle will bring that point sooner. This isn't Dreamhost's first cockup.

¹ http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/08/01/anatomy-of-an-ongoing-disaster/

² http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/07/dreamhost_hack/

³ http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/The_Internet_Is_Serious_Business

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Get a grip

none of you lost any money if this the worst a hosting service ever does to you, count yourselves incredibly lucky. "I almost lost money" shake quiver slobber (wets himself) "oh the humanity!"

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Happy

Still a happy camper

I have a lot of time for DreamHost. Similarly to Rich, I got a strange "you have been billed" email, but by the time I got round to looking into it, I'd got the following apology email :

<quote>

Hi Alec!

Ack. Through a COMPLETE bumbling on our part, we've accidentally attempted

to charge you for the ENTIRE year of 2008 (and probably 2009!) ALREADY

(it was all due to a fat finger)!

We're really really realllly embarassed about this, but you have nothing

to worry about. Please ignore any confusing billing messages you may have

received recently; we've already removed all those bum future charges on

your account and already refunded the $119.4 charge on your

credit card.

You should get the money back on almost immediately, within a day or

two max, and there's no need to contact your credit card company or bank

for the refund.

Thank you very very much for your patience with this.. we PROMISE

this won't happen again. There's no need to reply to this message unless

of course you have any other questions at all!

Sincerely,

The Foolish DreamHost Billing Team!

</quote>

Obviously there will be people screwed over by this, but it will be the fault of the afore-mentioned evil banks. Dreamhost made an honest mistake, corrected it quickly, and issued the only genuine apology I've ever heard from a corporate entity.

(happy icon 'cos I'm still a happy camper)

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Remember the $8000 Mandriva power pack?

A couple years ago, Mandriva billed many people $8000 for a copy of Linux due to a misplaced decimal point in the software of the payment processing service. In the end it worked out very good, since the exchange rate changed by the time they processed the refunds and I ended up get the software for free and I even turned a profit of about $20 on the transaction.

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But...but...it shouldn't have been possible....

Yes, they were quick to correct it.

Yes, they have apologized immediately.

But it shouldn't be possible to run ANYTHING on ANY system where one person typing in a date (and mistyping it) causes people to be billed. And even if it's possible, procedures should be in place to ensure that this sort of thing is checked.

Very sloppy.

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