Misleading webhosts

My blog has been quiet for a few days now, the reason being that I have been looking into switching to paid hosting. I’ve also been trying to compare different blogging software, since some hosts see a huge market in attracting bloggers and want to make it as easy as possible for them to set up and provide a “one-click-setup” type solution for WordPress, B2Evolution etc. They also provide FTP access for you to do it manually, which is the route I’ll most likely take personally.

Since this involves both the purchase of a domain name and hosting, or the option to combine them with one company…..there are a plethora of options out there, with pro’s and con’s all over the place. After trying to get my head round some of them, an observation hit me and I wonder if anyone else has noticed the same.

Is it normal for hosts to advertise a cheap monthly rate to hook you in, only to find that the reason for it is because you need to pay a year or 2 in advance? That the option to pay monthly does not exist at the rate it sold as a “per month.” I mean; to advertise something at a “monthly” rate, then not allow it to be paid monthly seems wrong to me.

I’ve looked at a few hosts, and since I don’t have a credit card, I find myself limited to those who accept Switch, direct debit or Paypal. I did decide on a company called VistaPages.

Could someone else have a look at the $6.95 offer on the index page, tell me if I’m missing something. I’ve seen some on other sites with the * matching the * at the bottom of the page explaining that the reason for the low price is the one or 2 year pre-payment. I see NOTHING anywhere which tells you VistaPages are the same.

I did look everywhere, I signed up, filled in all the forms….and only at the final “check payment amount” with Paypal did I see I was about to be billed for 2 years as 1 installment……so I went back through the pages assuming I’d selected something wrong.

I emailed their customer services to explain, and was told that paying monthly for the same “$6.95 per month with no setup fee” would be “$15.95 + $20 setup fee”. It was in that response that I learned that the prices were conditional to pre-payment. Let me put it another way, if you sell something and get offers of between $80 and $95 from a list of people and I offer $100…..what do you assume? Same terms? I would….then I explain…..that’ll be monthly installments of $5 for 20 months, giving you your $100. It’s misleading is it not?

When I queried their lack of openness on their site I was pointed to their  Terms Of Service page which apparently explains it……although I can’t find it. They have a single reference to “Full payment is required in advance before hosting service is established.” tucked in alongside references to monthly billing dates. It’s the ONLY reference ANYWHERE on their site….and they think they are “up front”. You have to go looking for it…..and then don’t blink or you miss it. The paragraph in question could easily apply to monthly billing…ie you pay a month in advance, or we reserve the right to close your site.

They of course “welcome the customer contacting them to ask”…..they have a web site, those are pretty fundamental questions, why can’t they just tell the people? That’s kinda the point of a “frequently asked questions” type page, isn’t it? Or am I mistaken on that concept?

Is it me, or is VistaPages a bit underhanded and misleading in their advertising? Or is this normal practice? I want to pay per month, I have no problems with being in a 2 year contract….but I want to be able to compare like for like, the last thing I need is to find that even the prices don’t apply. Some hosts hide their payment methods too…..which drives me crazy, there’s no point in scanning the options only to decide to sign up and find I need a credit card which I don’t have.

I am not picking on VistaPages as such here, they seem to be one of several who use this type of lure. Other hosts at least give you the option and explain that it does cost more to be billed monthly, or there are additional set up costs for monthly billed customers. It’s also surprising how many have little or no reference to the payment methods they accept. You have to go through the sign up forms only to find they only accept credit cards.

How is the customer supposed to compare if none of the details are accurate or even there at all without asking a customer services rep? The prices ain’t accurate, the terms ain’t accurate….even when you make your choice and decide to wade in, you don’t know if you have suitable currency.


6 Responses to “Misleading webhosts”

  1. K Says:

    If you are blogging for fun, a free blogging like the wordpress.com is not that bad. Well free is good but it’s limited. Although, having you own host is liberally enjoying, you really have to think if it’s benefitial to you. Why not upgrade to css on wordpress, try it on and see if it works for you?

  2. Dirk Gently Says:

    I am blogging for fun, but I want a commercial part of it to be free of restraints. That’s something that would be a TOS suspension with wordpress.com. I respect the rules here, and although I didn’t read them before signing up, I do respect them now I’m here…..it’s just becoming more apparent that I need to self host.

    I am a web designer, so I doubt upgrading to CSS wouldn’t give me the level of control I’d want if I was paying. A paid host would give me the option of using any blogging software, not just WordPress too……who knows, WordPress maybe my choice, but it may not be.

    The point wasn’t about paid or free hosting though, it was on the misleading way some hosts are advertised. For something to be sold on a “per month” pricing point, when the ability to pay for the same service at that price “per month” don’t apply.

    It makes it very difficult to compare deals if none of the details are being shown clearly.

  3. pebcac Says:

    I agree with your view of web hosting pricing. The ultimate goal is to lure you in and promise you the world for $xx/month. These tactics get a lot of people to “try [insert name of web hosting company here] for 30 days at no charge” simply to find out that there is a charge or it’s almost impossible to move your newly built web page once your free trial term is ended. There’s a huge market that is being exploited by tons of fly by night companies.

    I’ve dealt with quiet a few and would recommend Midphase.com based on personal experience. There monthly price is the same as the yearly price, and they deliver what they promise.

  4. Dirk Gently Says:

    It never occurred to me in this context about the company being in business for the length of your prepaid contract, or that it’d be a nightmare to move if you’re not happy. Good points.

    Of course if you do find your new host is more of a wolf than you expect, and you can’t change, you could fight dirty. Upload your site to a different host, and change the index.htm and default.htm to a simple page with a “[Insert offending webhost here] are fucking me over with bullshit promises, and are refusing to honor their agreement as advertised. In my opinion, [insert offending webhost here] are a cowboy company; for anyone looking for a webhost I’d advise against falling for [insert offending webhost] sales pitch as it’s turned out to be hollow promises for me, my guess is that you will have similar problems. I’ve had to abandon this URL because they seem to have found the asshole niche an easy fit. In short, we have moved [insert new link] here.”

    Give them negative advertising on their own servers. Make sure you don’t make stuff up, to avoid defamation laws……just let people know why your page now has a “we’ve moved” link instead of the site the surfer expected. You can claim the reason for your message is a public service to help prevent anyone else falling into the same trap as you have…….with [insert offending webhost here].

    If you can put a redirect on it, all the better. Of course this does involve changing domain names, at least in the short term while you fight it out….but by letting the company know what you think in a very public way, they may give in easier. Their TOS will never include “stating a negative opinion about us on a website hosted on our own servers” as a condition…….defamation or slander yes, but as long as it’s the truth…..it’s not defamation or slander……which means they can’t pull it for a TOS violation.

    Making sure it’s stated as “your opinion” rather than “fact” is a handy dodging point too. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, no matter if others disagree with it. If it’s stated as “fact”, then it can be legally challenged….and forced to be proven, all of which draws the process out and forces you to spend money defending yourself.

    You could even put up a short story of “your experiences” with the offending webhost, as sarcastically as possible of course, but make sure it’s (CV) true. Reviewing a product or service is not against their TOS…..too bad it’s them.

  5. pebcac Says:

    Wow. I’ve luckily never had a reason to do as you listed. I hope you don’t mind, but I saved those comments for just such occasions as might warrant that kind of response. I had to laugh at a few of them because they just made so much sense. All good points. My buddies were crying laughing about these.

  6. Dirk Gently Says:

    I don’t mind at all, the version I gave you was an off-the-cuff shorthand one.

    Personally I’d REALLY go to town, and create a 3 or 4 page site detailing EVERYTHING, including screen captured .jpegs of certain parts of their TOS and sales pitch to highlight parts. I’d make my navigation with links like “how [insert offending webhost here] are screwing me” and “how [insert offending webhost here] are likely to screw you if you are fooled by the sales bitch” etc….you get the idea.

    I’d lay out the entire thing with as sarcastic a telling as I could muster…..including posting full emails, where it helps explain, and making sure you refer to the staff at the company by full name and position.

    The way I see it, is that if they wanna play “funny buggers” while hiding under the legal bonnet, I can do the same with them…..no problem. I’d also give my “experiences” in the form of a “review” in EVERY hosting comparison site who want customer feedback I found.

    The aim here is to get the company pissed off and unable to TOS you, and therefor remove the negative advertising. The aim is to point out what they’re doing…..which if they fit into the asshole niche, then they know what they’re doing and don’t care……..what they DO care about, is someone telling other marks before they become marks, so those marks avoid being hit.

    The aim here is to force the company to honor their part of THEIR sales pitch, which WILL mean releasing your URL to let you go with a grown up host. Since they want to play games, any solution that includes you staying with them in any way is not a solution.

    I’d also keep a mini site within the new hosted site, so that even when it’s released and you’re financially compensated for loss of earnings caused by the hassle…..keep a “webhosts to avoid” (your sarcastic negative site on the offending hosts server) section on your new site. Keep the subject alive by the using them as an example when talking about webhosts in terms of “unlike [insert offending webhost here], this company offer a great service in …….”

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