A Billing Scam by proXPN?
One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Security Now, a TWiT show. Every one of these shows (as well as many of the shows on the TWiT network) finds me learning a great deal that I use personally, for my company, or my own “Security Tip of the Week” on the Minnov8 Gang Podcast. To say I find Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable is an understatement — and I’ve taken to extending those feelings to their advertisers — since Leo continually touts the fact that he only supports advertisers he vets and actually uses.
But I think these guys either had a lapse when it comes to the VPN provider proXPN, or they have never signed up for a trial period with this vendor and then tried to cancel the account during that trial period (which I now suggest they have a TWiT staffer do for EVERY potential advertiser).
Making it hard to cancel is the oldest trick in the book to get some percentage of people to pay when you charge their credit card immediately and then make them jump through a bunch of hoops to cancel and get a refund. Here is what happened and why I strongly caution you to consider another vendor for your VPN services:
- On Leo and Steve’s continual glowing recommendation of proXPN, I signup for the 7-day trial on Friday, August 2nd
- After using the service I determine it is far too slow for my needs and decide to cancel on Wednesday, August 7th — the sixth day of the seven day trial
- Logging on to the proXPN “Member Area” I discover there is no way to cancel online. In proXPN’s terms of service it states:
“proXPN extends a 7-day risk-free trial to all new proXPN Premium Accounts. To prevent fraud, we charge your PayPal account or credit card immediately. However, within 7 days of ordering, you can request a full refund through our customer support helpdesk – no questions asked. Please note: this trial is available to new users of proXPN only.”
- I open a support ticket on August 7th saying I do indeed want to cancel my account…and hear nothing.
- Finally having time today to followup on several business items like this one, I reluctantly log in to the proXPN “Member Area” in order to see what the status of my support ticket is (and I say “reluctantly” since logging in sometimes “reactivates” an account and starts a new billing cycle). I’m chagrined to see this status (click for larger view) and that my status is set to “Customer-Reply” meaning they must have sent me an email:
- Rolling my eyes and thinking, “Shit…I sure hope this is not yet another unethical company” I go and dig through my spam folder to see if there are any emails from them (and I get hundreds of spam emails per day that end up in there). To my dismay I finally uncover a reply from proXPN support that turns out to be an “open-ended” email that says:
Hi there –
Is there anything we can do to improve your experience? We like to keep our customers happy and we’d hate to lose you.
Ticket ID: #772556
Ticket URL: http://proxpn.com/….
- By asking ME a question and waiting for my response, the ticket remains open. Going back to their Terms of Service I see that, “Refunds are given as per conditions stated above regarding our 7-day risk-free trial. If you request a refund after the 7-day trial period, we cannot issue one.” Since I requested to cancel my account before the 7-day trial period was up, I should receive a full refund.
Since proXPN made is so difficult to cancel within their 7-day trial period — and because I have zero trust they will refund my credit card since I requested to “cancel” instead of stating I wanted a “full refund” — I’ve contacted my credit card company and begun the process to dispute the charges since there is no way this company will be my VPN provider after this experience.
Is This a Billing Scam by proXPN? I think “yes” in the same way that AOL made it extremely hard to cancel (mandatory 45 minute hold time if a customer called in to cancel) and AOL was sued and paid $3M in fines.
The other thing is this: I’ll undoubtedly never sign up for a service touted by anyone, even people I used to implicitly trust like Leo and Steve.
UPDATE: Perhaps coincidence (been tweeting to @proXPN) but just received this from their billing support:
Your cancellation and refund request has been submitted and is in process. Please allow up to ten business days for your refund to post to your account. Your satisfaction is truly important to us, so please let us know if there’s anything further we can do to assist you.