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back to article Forum king vBulletin muzzles paid-up protesters

Big-name forumware outfit vBulletin has banned multiple paying customers from its own support forums after they complained about a recent overhaul of the company's pricing scheme. Some customers also say the company is preventing them from downloading product updates. Now owned by the California-based Internet Brands - a self- …

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I don't use vBulletin so I wasn't...

familiar with their business method, fee arrangement. Having read the article I would guess that they hope future customers don't google them first. Why would they upset their existing customer base like this?

I guess they were looking for a way to shoot themselves in the foot.

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Perfect way

to kill a product. When you just mess IT around, the rest of the company doesn't really listen. When you start to get the Finance departments interested in it, that's another matter (not the way it should run, but alas).

Now the costs of migration to another company that does offer the one off license and then small perpetual maintenance updates may start to make more sense.

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Unhappy

Confusing

People that have a "leased licence" even if they get a free upgrade before the 29th still have to buy a full VB4 licence later.

<<

4. Termination

The License is effective until terminated. You may terminate the License at any time by uninstalling the Software and destroying all copies of the Software in any media. This Agreement may be terminated by vBulletin Solutions immediately and without notice if you fail to comply with any term or condition of the License or this Agreement. Upon such termination, you must immediately cease using the Software, and destroy all complete and partial copies of the Software.

Leased-License Holders Only. For leased-license holders of any previous version of vBulletin software, up to and including version 3.8, the License terminates on the last day of your current leased-license agreement with Jelsoft. You may, however, purchase the Software prior to such end date, in which case the License will continue as specified in the first paragraph of this Section 4. Use of the Software after that end date without purchase makes the License void and you must immediately cease using the Software, and destroy all complete and partial copies of the Software.

vBulletin Solutions reserves the right to change or add to the terms of this Agreement at any time (including but not limited to Internet-based Solutions, pricing, technical support options, and other product-related policies), and to change, discontinue or impose conditions on any feature or aspect of the Software, or any Internet-based Solutions provided to you or made available to you through use of the Software. Such changes will be effective upon notification by any means reasonable to give you actual or constructive notice including by posting such terms on the vBulletin.com website, or another website designated by vBulletin Solutions. Your continued use of the Software will indicate your agreement to any such change.

>>

From http://www.vbulletin.com/order/license_agreement.php

It's very confusing.

On http://www.vbulletin.com/ and advert in Admincp on current installs:

Upgrade to VB4.0 Suite (essentially Blogs & Articles as extra) $130, full price $235

Upgrade to VB4.0 (same features) Free, full price $195

But does upgrading remove 3.8.4 support for rest of year? I could be wrong, but it looks like it replaces your 3.8.4 licence.

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Flame

It gets worse...

If you have current licence and take the "free" update to VB4 before the 29th (which we can't test or see anywhere), you DO NOT get the new lifetime VB4.x licence. The licence expires when original leased 3.x licence would have, and then you have to pay full price.

On their site map there is only VB4.x licence conditions and current 3.x licence conditions are not to be found. I don't know now what it is that we bought last month.

MS and IBM would be proud of their licence T&C and marketing campaign for new version.

In the AdminCp of 3.8.5 we get:

<<Over the last 12 months, we have been building vBulletin 4.0 to be the most powerful forum and social publishing software. Today, we are proud to introduce the new vBulletin 4.0 Publishing Suite product that includes the power of the vBulletin 4.0 Forums with a seamlessly integrated content management system (CMS) and blogging platform.

As a preferred customer with an active license, we are excited to offer the vBulletin Publishing Suite at a pre-sale discount price of only $130 (over 50% off regular price). This is a truly limited one-time special offer giving you $120 off the upgrade price but will expire on Friday October 30, 2009.

Learn more about vBulletin Publishing Suite features and pricing on our new website: http://www.vbulletin.com/

Beginning today, we are introducing new a license structure. vBulletin is changing to a one-time owned license fee for each major point release. That means no more annual renewal fees. Once you purchase a major point version, you’ll receive maintenance, security and minor point releases for the life of 4.x.

You have the option to keep your current active license until it expires (according to the 12 month term and conditions). For the remainder of your active license, you will continue to receive support and have access to forum software updates, including vBulletin 4.0 Forums. Once your license expires you will only be able to access the 4 Series software updates by switching to the new one-time owned license. For more information, visit the vBulletin FAQ.>>

As clear as mud when compared with V4.x licence.

Anonymous on THIS post obviouosly

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FAIL

Also...

Plugins.

Any site may rely on Plugins to combat Spam, do articles, allow formula etc.. Most (all?) won't work on new version till upgraded.

There are now two versions, an upgrade of current version and a new much more expensive CMS version which essentially only adds Blogging and Articles (both these work well as free add-ons right now). No-one really knows what the Articles feature is like or if existing articles will import.

Also if you have any sense you don't change to a new version the day it's released. Pioneers get arrows in the back.

This smells of a forced early adoption to have real sites be "guinea pig" bug reporters. The marketing to existing users is confusing and misleading.

People should not be almost forced to a new version and real costs should be clear as the large discounts of Free and almost 1/2 price for the two versions to current licences do not appear to be a lifetime of 4.x licence.

Also will this encourage the Sales people to make a service pack 4.6 or 4.3 be released as a 5.0 to get new licence revenue.

Type ver on Windows 7 command line/Console.

Obviously Anonymous.

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Anonymous Coward

Hummm... let's see if I got it right...

Before, you had to pay each year to keep your software up-to-date, now you pay once and what you get is support 'till the next release (or 'till this one goes in the bin and is no longer supported) then you have to pay again or just keep using it without any more support. The price of the second option is about 2 years of 'subscription' on the old scheme... doesn't sound too bad to me.

Then, when/if you start yapping that you don't like the scheme and you are no longer going to use their software and yada yada yada they simply tell you to FOAD.

That too doesn't sound too bad. I wish I could do the same with some of my lusers. If they keep complaining about this and that but then they keep coming back it means that is not so bad after all or that it still beat everything else around, so why complaining? To rise my blood pressure? Thanks a lot, can you FOAD now?

If you like the software, pay for it and use it, if you don't like it or don't like the price, do something else. If I go to a shop and don't like their prices, I don't whine with the casher, I just go somewhere else. Whining is just moron and 3 years old.

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Go Freetard

Just find an open source alternative, there are loads of bbs systems around.

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FAIL

IPB here I come...

Not that nobody didn't see this coming after they lost all of their developers, but I definitely didn't think they'd be helping bring themselves down so much. Ironic because previous to this whole thing I was planning on converting one of my forums to vB.

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Bronze badge
WTF?

"they inexplicably banned quite a few people, myself included, for their complaints"

ummm wtf?

Forums + argument = NERDRAGE + account bans

Funnily enough, I bet the people banned are those that ban people like me who get too heated from their forums.

I describe it as inexplicable when I'm banned for telling someone who wrong on the Internet just why he or she is wrong, in caps!

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FAIL

Load the gun and pull the trigger

"VBullettin" the head more like,

With so much open source forum software around linke SMF or PHPBB how can they possibley charge for software thats ugly and frankly no better than wht one can get for free.

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FAIL

Stop moaning and leave them behind.

Message as per title.

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Thanks

This has really helped me.

A number of times recently I have seriously considered upgrading some of the sites I run to vBulletin.

Now I see what they have become I have decided never to use their product!

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Silver badge
FAIL

shame for ongoing licences

but vote with feet.

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WTF?

Is that even legal?

Having paid a licence to to use the s/w, can vBulletin then revoke it? I can understand them saying no more support for this version, you are on your own unless you upgrade, but pulling the plug?

I smell a class action lawsuit coming up...

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FAIL

Sounds like they've been taking PR tips from Sony

I will admit to raising an eyebrow at the new pricing scheme - but fortunately, I subscribed for support to 3.8.x not too long ago, and that will be good until we actually see version 4.0 out in the wild. I also took advantage of the October sales (you get about half the price off an upgrade to version 4.0 - but only until the end of October, so you'd better hurry if you want to save the dosh!) - so as far as I'm concerned, I will not have to pay for support for a long time. I am also in no hurry to upgrade to version 4.0 - I'll just continue to use 3.8.x for the next year: It's good enough, and I doubt that the custom skins I bought will have 4.0 versions available for a while.

However, having said that, I can COMPLETELY understand why someone who wanted to extend their support for another year has been told, effectively, "Upgrade now - or else." - and is upset because they don't actually want to upgrade to 4.0 (3.8.x happens to be a very good product, and I did notice that the standard "free" upgrade to the 4.0 forum actually cuts out a lot of features that are already present in 3.8.x. Look at vBulletin's own product comparison chart!) So you DO lose a lot of features by default, in fact, if you don't cough up your "protection money" to the vBulletin Mafiosa.

vBulletin is good software, although I would say that these sorts of tactics are enough to make me nervous about relying upon them in future. Censorship belongs in the Peoples' Republic of China, and that is where I would prefer that it stayed - when you start censoring the opinions of your customers on your own forum, and banning them (despite their possession of fully paid-up licence(s), I might add), that is when you know you are well and truly on the way to the Joseph Stalin School of Public Relations (and probably a lawsuit, in the not too distant future - especially if the customer paid by credit card.)

Posted anonymously for good reason (I'm also a vBulletin customer, and I don't want to be banned from downloading v4.0 for posting "dissenting opinion" - especially now that I have gone and paid for the upgrade!)

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won't be upgrading

I renewed my VB 3 licence in August. From what I could gather, if I buy V4 I'm essentially throwing away the cost and subscription of my V3 licence.

Plus what's to stop them releasing V5 in six months time and I'm still stuck with a dead product.

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Anonymous Coward

Early days

I was with vB in the early days when forums were just starting to take off, at that time it was cheap, good, and John/James who owned/ran it them were active in the community, also running ts "live demo site". (vbforums, which has gone to the shits since it was sold). They were the days...

Anyone that has any sense will have switched away years ago, its crap and has been for a long long time.

Loads of OSS board software around it, get converted...

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds like a prime reason to ask your money back.

And sell the shares, get out of dodge, and so on and so forth. As a great management thinker said: It's not about profit maximisation, in fact that is utter folly. It is about making sure you earn enough to develop the next product (or here, version). This may very well be more than the returns you just "maximized". Like when your existing customers run away, or even better if you "ban" them. This seems obvious on its face, no?

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Anonymous Coward

Getting a more Complete Picture ...

You might check out some of the later posts on the adminaddict threads you posted for a more complete picture of the situation which you might find relevant for your readers, especially posts by Wayne Luke and a couple of replies from the banned individuals --

http://www.adminaddict.net/forum/vbulletin/vbulletin-nightmare-4432/#post52455 <-- scroll-up from this one to get the context.

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Coat

Another established brand...

... get's bought out and systematically driven out of business by incompetent new management.

Egotistical fools desperately trying to prove themselves by doing things differently whether it's appropriate or not.

The arrogance of incoming management teams never fails to amaze me.

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Unhappy

Sheer genius

"vBulletin is changing to a one-time owned license fee for each major point release. That means no more annual renewal fees." - Of course there is nothing to stop them releasing any old minor updates and calling it a "major point release" every year. This effectively makes the "permanent" license an annual support fee.

They ain't that smart though, as they've copied similar crap done by Microsoft and most especially Autodesk in this regard. Autodesk actually get away with forcing their own customers to buy Software "Maintenance" subscriptions annually just to have the legal right NOT to upgrade, and the only way to continue to buy licenses to run older versions (By older this is anything more than the 9 months after each annual release and the announcement of the next one) is to buy the current version and ALSO buy Maintenance. Just to make this even more insulting they cease tech support for the "obsolete" version that you are paying "Maintenance" to run!

"Once you purchase a major point version, you’ll receive maintenance, security, and minor point releases for the life of 4.x." - Just like with Autodesk you can bet they will release a new "major" version every year and then declare the previous version to be End of Life, so customers have no choice but to upgrade if they want any support.

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New management with old products never work.

When you have a proven product that sells and you sell the company and

the entire staff leaves then you have no chouce but to get new management.

Not just in the software industry but in regular sales clothing store this ticks me off to no end as well!

Example. I love this sports store and its awsome great winter jackets. I go back to it next year and its under new management!!!!!! GRRRRRR!

I wanted the coat from last year that is used to climb the Himilayan mountains and was

priced around $600+ Well since the new management took over there is not one decent winter jacket that is over $200.......

Why must quality always end when new management arrives?

Qqqqqq

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Linux

perils commercial software ?

Illustrates the perils of doing business with a closed source 'commercial' software company. You can never get of the perpetual upgrade bandwagon. Remember the car-parking outfit that was nearly shut-down because their software licenses expired ...

http://ctrambler.wordpress.com/2006/08/09/should-the-cars-data-be-held-hostage/

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I was banned by vBulletins Ray Morgan

For voicing my concerns in a customers only forum that prospective customers cannot even see, i was then banned again for posting under a new username for stating that i had been banned because vBulletin just wants to censor people.

Good riddance, ive recently heard they have been banning people who have openly just stated that they wont spend any more money with vBulletin - what a sad state of affairs!

No wonder the original devs all jumped ship after IB took over - if this is how they treat its long standing customers - goodness knows how they operate as employers!

If anyone wants to see a model of customer care go sign up with Invision Powerboard!

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Unhappy

Not surpirsed Ray Morgan refuses to comment!

I am not surprised that Ray Morgan refuses to comment. He has refused to answer questions from the people who pay him every month - i.e. his customers. Please continue to push for answers - this page is being posted rapidly around the net, so many people will be waiting for answers from him.

Many people are very upset.

Many people had purchased both Vbulletin 3, with blogs and project tools and have a valid renewal contract which might not expire for another 12 months or even longer.

These users have a choice - have a 'free' upgrade to VB4 under their current contract and scrap their use of blogs and project tools or pay $130 or $250 (after 30th October) to download the version of blogs that will work with VB4. Even the 'free' upgrade comes with strings - when their support contract ends, the previous cost to renew of $60 per year is now $175 (albeit with no costs to pay until V5 comes out in around 2 years time), but still with no access to blogs.

In effect users are being told your version of blogs and project tools has been discontinued and you will need to buy again!

For some being asked to find $130 or $250 on top of the $60 renewal which may only have been made in the last few days or weeks is hard for people to handle.

This has been handled very poorly, with many people banned who are loyal customers.

Of course let us not forget that the release of VB4 and VB4 blogs is still some time away, so people are being asked to pay $130 or $250 for a product that they cannot even download.

Surely that is not right???? If Internet Brands / Jelsoft are able to get away with it, then which company will follow next? Microsoft asking people to pay $100 for Windows 8 now or $300 in 2 years time?

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Alert

Complain!

vbulletin customers, please complain to the Better Business Bureau!

http://www.la.bbb.org/ComplaintDetail.aspx?CompanyID=100013870

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Alert

It's not just about the price changes!

It's not just price changes!

Posted Wednesday 28th October 2009 22:31 GMT

Although this story has the facts covered here pretty accurately described, it is not the whole story.

many of us who have this issue with them, after being shut out for expressing our dissatisfaction of ticket responses it isn't that they have changed their pricing structure for everyone.

It is for me and many others, the fact that prior to the new release announcement, that thier management indicated to us, "not to wait to purchase because it would be more advantageous to us to purchase now" at the time.

That same staff member is who also is responding to the tickets.

but the real issue for me is, they told us not to wait, we spent $240 for forums and blog module, two weeks prior to this announcement, to only be told that blog is discontinued and no updates or support will be provided, and that despite what we paid, if we want to get the newer forums, which will not be an extra charge, there is no blog module available for it, to also upgrade to, and the only way get a blog is the buy the integrated one in their new "suite" for which they are asking an additional $130 or we are out of luck.

Traditionally none of these products function very long with out patches and upgrades, so our choices are very limited, we can step up to 4.0 and throw away the blog we just bought, or stay with out current version and "hope" the blog does not fail with changes in the server side languages they rely on to work.

So I am having an issue with the fact that two weeks prior to this announcement of license restructuring, I purchased owned licenses, for two products that are supposed have, according to the license agreement in force at the time of purchase, a forum and blog that are both supposed have support, and be upgraded with out further charge for the period of one year from the purchase date for which I spent $240 only to be told I have to pay another $130 to actually GET what I already paid for, and their defense is, I can still use the existing software for as long as I wish according to the license they claim they are not in violation of this agreement.

I also was one of those who was banned for no other reason but because I was becoming extremely frustrated with every post I wrote for others to know how this is in fact a violation of the license agreement, and that if WE all filed complaints to the appropriate departments in the US, their "pending" business registration would likely be declined, if there were too many complaints, as well as their very deletions of posts and whole threads, all of which I have screen shots and SECURE pdf's of as proof of their existence, is a violation of the United state's first amendment, that has previously been ruled by the supreme court, that on-line identities still have this right, when some organizations were turned down in their requests in court to apply censorship to questionable content that is viewable by children and teens because it was a violation of that poster's 1st amendment rights, so how is deleting our posts and banning us any different? Considering the fact that as a consumer, if I were to be, for the first time looking in to spending this considerable amount of money on such software, would want to know such practices by the company marketing it had been done so I can make an informed decision on that purchase and not have it misrepresented, as is now the case for any prospective consumers looking to buy this product..

Thank you for providing a public venue to alert people to such practices by a company showing no ethics or integrity in their marketing practice, and possibly offering the chance for the consumers in question to now they have a right to organize this in to a class action suit, or in the least to rally together to let companies know, we are not stupid, and are not going to take this by any company any longer because they only are as big as they get because of us, and if we can make them with our purchases, we can break them by standing together and filing those complaints and become a loud enough voice for an attorney general to step in and take this to the next level!

Anyone wishing copies of screen shots or pdf can post their request at ICAnComplain forums, a UK based site for people tol og complaints and reviews with, and no it is not mine nor do i have anything to do with them except for having found it a another venue to educate consumers about how much power they really have when they stand together!

The Smoking Gun!

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I need to apologise to someone now...

... because they were changing their forum system and, having found vBulletin to be an excellent forum system for users and for admins/ mods, I lobbied strongly for adopting it.

I won't say it was entirely on my recommendation that they did change to it, but now, possibly because of my influence, it seems they've been sold a pup.

What a ridiculous state of affairs :-(

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Anonymous Coward

David McHenry what an idiot

http://www.adminaddict.net/forum/vbulletin/so-who-did-preordered-4218/index3/

"I agree they did a good job with almost everything. The only aspect I didn't like was forking out the cash, before a beta was even available."

What idiot shells out cash before you have a product to use?????? hes obviously a fan boy of some sort just by looking through what he has posted

Its scarey to think that anyone would start shelling out that kind of cash before they could actually use something :|

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Anonymous Coward

Ridiculous

It's just ridiculous the way they are treating PAID customers, and it's good to know that this has now strayed beyond just the vBulletin support forums and onto a respected site such as theregister.

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Open source is about more than the price

There are dozens of forum products around - and vBulletin is one of the most enterprise level ones. I migrated several phpBB forums to vB about two years ago.

But I was always uncomfortable with it being closed source - so for new projects we were looking at other forums.

This episode confirms one important point - before investing your expensive time and effort into projects make sure you have access and ownership of the code!

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AVC
Jobs Horns

Laughing my arse off at this folly

Internet Brands managers have been reading this thread all week:

http://www.forumpostersunion.com/showthread.php?t=8864

I started it right after they banned me from the "official vBulletin Forum", I was the first one to get banned over there under the user name "AVC".

I was banned for insisting that Ray Morgan, vBulletin General Manager resign or be fired by Internet Brands in addition to calling them all what they are, censors and greedy morons who should not be ruining a legendary forum software product like they have done.

I think vBulletin banned me thinking I was the loudest member leading on the mob to attack them, that is fine, because this story is not over by any means folks.

Internet Brands has opened a pandora's box filled with hornets and we all want the former developers of vBulletin to form a new company that we can support and move our forum databases to.

3 of the main vBulletin developers left the company for a reason, now we can see the reason as plain as day.

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IB and Vbulletin lie

I am a paid customer who was banned for voicing my opinion. I have used this software for over 5 years, paid my renewal fee, then found out about vbulletins plans to take excessive amounts of money from people. I posted my thoughts in their licensed customers forums and during the postings, i was harassed and intimidated by Steve Machol and Wayne Luke. Any legitimate management team would fire employees for this type of treatment of a customer.

Vbulletin is playing a scam on people and trying to force people to purchase software they don't need. I paid for and own a license for vbulletin forum software and the blogs software. After team vbulletin decided to take more money out of our pockets, they took my blog license, added it to my vbulletin forum license and then tells me if i want to continue receiving blog updates, i need to purchase a suite, which includes software i don't need nor do i want. Parts of the software in the suite are failed software types that vbulletin had lost money on. So instead of accepting the losses, they are forcing people to take the software anyways and forcing them to pay for such crappy software. For my part in voicing my concerns, steve machol not only banned me from vbulletin, took my renewal fee, he suspended my license after doing so. I hope vbulletin and it's current owner file bankruptcy. Hopefully people will wake up and realize that what vbulletin is doing is blackmail and extortion.

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Stock holders

I wish current and potential stock holders of internet brands would read this article and the comments. Internet brands is very unfriendly and very unprofessional. All of the write ups i have come across recently, make internet brands sound like they are making money hand over fist and that they are hitting record sales. I would disagree with that statement, and i would figure they are actually loosing money hand over fist. I for one have been a loyal customer and will no longer purchase vbulletin software. I know i am only one person, but i hope the loss of my money helps internet brands stock price, tumble.

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Information prerelease

To the register, here is the information that was leaked prior to any official announcements: http://www.brent-wilson.com/archives/46/

You can see here that they new well in advance what the pricing structure was going to be: http://www.brent-wilson.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/picture8hpp.png

You can see here that Ray morgan and internet brands was prepared for the unhappy customers: http://www.brent-wilson.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/picture14cwy.png and ray is stating this word for word.

Vbulletin has pulled of one of the biggest scams in internet history and should be held accountable for such actions.

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