By Ruth Barringham
My Problems With HostNine Web Hosting
A couple of weeks ago I had an issue with my web hosting account with a company called HostNine and I’ve decided to write about it warn others because what they did was unethical and illegal and I had to hound them to get them to do what they should have done in the first place. So I’m writing this to warn anyone else who has a website hosted with them in case they have the same issue.
So this is what happened.
I only had one website hosted with HostNine, cheritonhousepublishing.com/books/12MTH.html, which I no longer have so I had cancelled the hosting service and domain name registration last year (2016) and thought no more about it because I no longer have any hosting packages and no domain names registered with them. So my account remained open but idle.
Then, I was recently checking my accounts (April 2017) and I saw that $47.40 had been taken out of my PayPal account and paid to HostNine. Not once had they sent me an email or given me any notification whatsoever to say that this money had been paid.
I looked further into it and it seems that I’d set my payments for my hosting account to go out through subscription payments through PayPal, which means that the money will keep getting paid every year until I cancel the subscription. So it was my fault but I wanted the money back.
Naturally the first thing I did was to cancel the subscription but there was no way I could reclaim the money through PayPal. So I had to get in touch with HostNine.
When I looked at my HostNine account there were only 3 ways to get in touch. I could open a support ticket, send and email or do a live chat session. So I sent an email:
From: Ruth Barringham
Date: 19 April 2017 at 4:01:26 pm AEST
I see from my Paypal statement that a payment of $47.40 was sent to you automatically from my account for a hosting package that I no longer have.
That money should never have been taken.
I would like it returning to my PayPal account.
And as I have no hosting or domain names with your company any more I would also like to close my account.
This was the response:
This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.
A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:
I tried to send the email two more times but it kept coming back with the same permanent error.
So I opened a chat window and this is how the conversation went. I explained my situation and asked for a refund. Simple, huh? Well, not with HostNine it seems:
Welcome To Live Chat
PRINT RATE AND EXIT
Kiran R has joined the chat!
Hi Ruth. Welcome to Live chat. I am Kiran. How are you today?
I tried to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org but apparently there is a permanent error with that email address. Anyway, I was emailing because I was looking at my PayPal account and saw that last November a payment was taken for my hosting account that I no longer have for my website cheritonhousepublishing.com/books/12MTH.html. Can you please refund the money. It was $47.40
Sure, I will look into it. Please reply back with the Support Code which you can obtain from your client area at: secure.hostnine.com/clientarea.php under the Support Options. If you don't know or have forgotten client area password, please go to secure.hostnine.com/pwreset.php and reset it.
Thank you for authentication.
Could you please provide me the invoice number of your payment?
It was an automatic payment through PayPal. I'll look it up on their site.
I can see that you are already provided with a credit balance of $47.40.
It only has a subscription number - Subscription # S-6*****19US2361451. But you can see from my account that it is $47.40 in credit.
Credit is no good to me because I have no services or domain names with HostNine.
I am sorry we will not be able to provide a refund once the credit balance is created.
How did I know you'd say that? Of course money can be refunded. Every business on the whole planet can do a refund. So please don't say you can't. What you're really saying is that you won't.
Paypal refunds are particularly easy. You just click "refund"
So are you also refusing to communicate with me?
I have contacted one of our billing specialists personally regarding your issue and they said that it cannot be refunded.
Billing specialists? Not so special if they can't do a refund. I want my money back. It was taken fraudulently. You knew that I have no accounts with you but you took my money. Please refund it.
Okay I will create a ticket for this issue, this is the only way you can get a refund.
What does that mean? What are you going to do? How can a refund be issued through a support ticket but not through a billing specialist?
The tickets will be handled by even high specialist who can provide refund.
Do you want me to create a ticket?
I want a refund. What happens after you create a "ticket"?
I am currently also putting a dispute through PayPal.
One of our senior specialists will be checking this for you further and they will be contacting you via email with a permanent resolution.
I feel that this is just a way for you to get rid of me right now. You started by saying "we will not be able to provide a refund" then it was a billing specialist said "it cannot be refunded." Now a ticket will be handed to a higher specialist? Refunds are so easy and can be done on the spot.
I am sorry but I am not able to provide refund. A ticket has to be created.
XHW-978-34806 is your ticket ID. One of our senior specialists will be checking this for you further and they will be contacting you via email with a permanent resolution.
Ok. I have no option at the moment but to allow you to do it. But this isn't over. That money should not have been taken and should have been refunded immediately once he mistake had been made. I trusted HostNine to be ethical.
I have take a screenshot of this chat.
They then immediately sent me an email:
Thank you for chatting with us. Unfortunately, as your problem with the refund could not be resolved through live chat, I am opening a ticket and passing all relevant information to our ticket techs.
The ticket has been placed in the appropriate queue and one of our agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Hostnine | https://hostnine.com
Then they sent me another email the next day on 20th April:
Ms. Ruth Barringham,
H9 does not actually bill your PayPal account. Your PayPal account is simply configured to send a predetermined amount of money to our account at a predetermined frequency. We have no control over the date/frequency of or amount of your subscription payment; and have no way to stop a payment from coming or skip a payment. This is all handled directly with PayPal, and cannot be performed within our control panel, or by our staff. Our billing system will automatically detect and credit any over-payments to your account. We offer PayPal subscription payments as a courtesy only and unfortunately will not be able to refund any credit received from an overpayment. I apologize for this, but the onus is on you to cancel running subscriptions after you cancel with us. You have a PayPal subscription running for your account. This means you have a recurring payment setup through PayPal to send us funds every cycle. You will want to cancel your subscription you will no longer need so log into your PayPal account and go to the following link: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_manage-paylist .
This should list all your recurring payments and give you the option to cancel them. Per the Terms of Service: https://hostnine.com/terms-and-conditions/ , It is your responsibility to cancel your PayPal subscription after cancelling hosting which is in section 8.4. Generally PayPal overpayments are credited to your account to be used towards future purchases. Also in the Terms of Service in section 14.2, it states: Credits are only available for future services/invoices and cannot be issued as refunds . The onus was on you to cancel your PayPal subscription and you failed to follow instructions that aren't just in the Terms of Service, but you received an email when this account was canceled on the 11th of November, last year via TCKT# KCI-328-**726 telling you this verbatim: If you fail to cancel your subscription, PayPal will continue to automatically bill you. The only way to stop billing is to cancel the subscription. The fact is you didn't follow the instructions you received when this account was cancelled so you were given accurate information when you were told you will not receive a refund. As far as your email not being able to be verified we cannot troubleshoot this issue because we don't know the filters set for your email client or the server your email goes through. We can only suggest you check your junk/ Spam folders for the verification email. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Thanks for contacting us. We wish we could be of more assistance.
H9 | https://hostnine.com/
Despite being promised that the issue would be handled by a senior billing specialist, the email was from a “Web Advisor," the same level as the person on the live chat window.
And what their email was saying was that because “ you failed to follow instructions” and “The fact is you didn't follow the instructions” and “the onus is on you to cancel running subscriptions” which means “so…you will not receive a refund.”
In other words, they weren’t saying that I wasn’t entitled to a refund, only that because the error was my fault, they were going to keep my money.
Was I annoyed? You bet. And I was even more annoyed when I received another email from them the same day:
Thank you for contacting us and submitting your recent ticket: PayPal Subscription Running: Refund Request (XHW-978-34806)
We work hard to constantly improve our customer service and support and part of doing that is asking our customers for their opinions about how we are doing.
Please take 30 seconds to answer this short two question survey. It'll really help us help you!
To take the survey, just click on the following link: To take the survey, please click on the following link: https://support.hostnine.com/index.php?/Tickets/Survey/Index/XHW-978-*****/****nc9t3glk
You're receiving this survey because the ticket listed above was either closed by a member of our team or automatically after 48 hours of inactivity. If you'd like to open it up again, just reply to this email and we'll be happy to help.
All the best,
So it seems they’d responded and said no refund because of my mistake and, according to the above email, they’d closed the ticket.
Naturally I responded by clicking the link and taking their survey to tell them exactly what I thought, which was that they were acting unethically and illegally. Just because I’d overpaid them didn’t give them the automatic right to keep my money.
One way or another I was determined to get my money back. It wasn’t that I couldn’t live without it, it was a matter of principle.
So on the 22nd and 23rd April I took to Twitter:
Need good #Webhosting ? I wouldn't recommend @hostnine at all. In fact I say "Run Forrest!"#hosting #websites #blogging They won't refund me
"The fact is you didn't follow the instructions... you will not receive a refund." @hostnine what a weak excuse for stealing my money.
I accidentally overpaid @hostnine & they say "The onus is on you to be responsible for your account." and won't refund. FRAUD! #hosting
And on Facebook:
HostNine have a payment of mine which was sent in error and now they won't refund it because, "The fact is you didn't follow the instructions...you will not receive a refund. Here is the live chat I did with them a few days ago to try and get a refund and the BS they fed me::: [I pasted the whole online chat but I won’t paste it again here because I already did the beginning of this article]
This is what HostNine use an excuse for not giving me my refund of $47.40 "The fact is you didn't follow the instructions you received when this account was cancelled so you were given accurate information when you were told you will not receive a refund." So they admit the money is mine but they won't give it back.
HostNine have stolen my money. They will not refund my $47.40 because they say the payment was received by them in error so I am not entitled to a refund. So if you want a hosting account, my advice is to not go to HostNine. They are outright thieves.
HostNine responded on 23rd of April by email stating this:
Ms. Ruth Barringham,
We haven't taken anything. You were informed to cancel the PayPal subscription and haven't affirmed this has been cancelled. You will not be considered for a refund if you don't cancel the PayPal subscription. The onus is on you to be responsible for your account. You haven't any active services with us so we haven't invoiced you or charged you for anything. We provided the link to cancel the subscription and as previously asserted you still haven't cancelled the PayPal subscription. We haven't done anything, but we have told you now almost 6 months ago via TCKT# KCI-328-**726 this need to be cancelled also every time you accessed your account you agreed to the Terms of Service. Let us know once you are ready to take responsibility for this blunder and have cancelled your PayPal subscription. As it is now, the credit is on your account and will not expire. Please advise further.
Thanks for contacting us!
How rude is that? I couldn't believe that they’d said “Let us know once you are ready to take responsibility for this blunder.” Not once had I said that the overpayment wasn’t my fault.
And this was the first time that they’d said that the refusal for the refund was because I hadn’t confirmed that I’d canceled my PayPal subscription. Not once in their previous correspondence did they say that I could have a refund if I canceled my PayPal subscription. I searched back through them all and scoured them looking for the place where they told me to cancel my subscription account and notify them when I’d done it. When I saw that they'd never asked me to do that, I realised it was simply just another way for them to blame ME for the lack of refund.
I responded immediately with:
Naturally I cancelled it the minute I found out about the overpayment.
As to the terms of service, I am forced to agree to them every time I log in otherwise I cannot access my account. That is blackmail.
And as for "Let us know once you are ready to take responsibility for this blunder" (how rude is that?) I have never said that it wasn't my fault. All along I have said that you are refusing to refund my money because I made a mistake. Not once have I EVER denied that I am responsible for the "blunder." But what I have said all along is that it does not give you the right to keep my money.
HostNine responded with:
I do apologize for the previous reply. I can certainly understand how this mistake could happen, and at this time, I have gone ahead and issued the refund. Please accept my sincere apologies for the trouble you've had to deal with. I can imagine that this has been very frustrating for you!
Please let me know if there is anything else that I can help you out with, and I will be more than happy to take a look at it for you.
Customer Service Manager
And sure enough, the same day I received an email from PayPal stating:
Dear Cheriton House Publishing,
HostNine LLC has just sent you a full refund of $47.40 USD for your purchase.
If you have any questions about this refund, please contact HostNine LLC.
The refund will go to your PayPal account.
Yahoo! Finally! I got the refund I had been entitled to all along.
So I posted on Twitter:
Victory! Got my refund from @hostnine and an apology for the rotten(rude) email responses I'd received.
And on Facebook:
Today I claim a victory. I finally received my refund from HostNine for $47.40 plus an apology for the nasty emails I received from them. All I wanted was a refund of the money I'd overpaid them. That's all. I made a mistake and wanted my money back because I no longer have any services with them. But they refused to refund my money and said that the $47.40 would stay on my account as a credit forever or until I bought another hosting account with them. I've been posting on FB about this for the past few days but now I'll stop because I have the refund I wanted.
So now I’m happy because I got my refund and it only took a week thanks to social media.
If you have an account with HostNine make sure of how your payments are reaching them and if it is a PayPal subscription, remember to cancel it if you cancel your hosting account.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to have any more services with them because not only could I not get my money refunded without a hassle, but also when I log into my account my only options are to pay my bills or look at my invoices. There are no options to buy more hosting or register a new domain name. Just nothing.
I once asked them about that and they emailed back and said that if I wanted to register a new domain name or buy a hosting service, to email them with what I wanted and they’d look into it for me. Hmmm…not really efficient in this fast-paced digital world, so I didn’t bother at the time and I’m really glad now that I didn’t.
In fact, when you go to the HostNine website at https://hostnine.com, you can see that the site is somewhat confusing as it’s not directing you anywhere. It’s just a big spread of information about how great the company is.
Whereas if you go to a better hosting company like Hostgator you can see straight away that they have a “Get Started Now” option right at the top of the page plus it’s easy to browse around and look at hosting packages and register domain names.
And I think that as a web hosting company, if they can’t get their own website set out for easy navigation, it doesn’t create a good impression and provide confidence to potential customers. Sorting out web hosting is difficult enough without bad navigation to help you find the information you need.
I’ve used Hostgator as one of my hosting companies for quite a few years now and have not had any major issues with them.
And I hope my story here goes some way to helping you to choose a good web hosting company too.