We apologize for the slower updates today, although we would also like to acknowledge that this is the first Friday The Consumerist has even been open for business, so maybe we should just pretend this is going to be standard operating procedure. We’ve been on the phone for about two hours trying to gain access to two domains that were registered about five years ago with Westhost. As you may have gathered from this post, it did not go very well.
Full saga, post jump.
In the very near future we expect that we will not be able to write about our personal travails with companies, since writing a weblog about how companies fuck one over will make the customer service experience smoother than average. In this case, we were actually acting as a proxy for someone else, so our name never came up.
Two domains were registered with Westhost about five years ago, who at the time resold registrar services from Core. Apparently, the domains were supposed to expire about four years ago, and Westhost sent out notifications to our friend Bryan, who may or may not have responded. Westhost does not have any record of payment, so let’s presume he never paid.
Those domains should have been cancelled, right? They weren’t.
Westhost has put the blame on Core, explaining that Core often ‘kept domains live that shouldn’t be.’ Not expired them, like both Core and Westhost should have done, but just let them live something like life, but cold and wicked. But we’ve made changes to these ‘dead’ domains, including adding our friend Randy’s name to the account as an admin, since Bryan ventured off to forge a name for himself in the honorable field of extreme sports retail. (No, we’re not joking.)
But for the last two months, there has been a problem with the domains, such that the sites they resolve to have been offline. Today we called Westhost to try to get them to release the domains to be transferred to a non-broken registrar.
It was then we were told that we would be able to “reclaim control” of the domains as long as we paid for the last four years of domain registrar service, despite the fact that we don’t control the domains. If we were to pay them $72 per domain, we were informed, they would be able to “grab the domain and set it up under a new account.”
Of course, we balked. If Westhost would have transferred the account ownership properly a couple years ago, we would have no problem, as we would be able to log in and approve the registrar change ourself. But since we couldn’t, despite the information in the WHOIS reflecting our ownership, they were only willing to fix their mistake if we were willing to pay them over a hundred dollars.
We sort of understand their position, believe it or not. There was a billing mistake and they want their money. But the mistake was theirs, not ours, and our willingness to pay it shouldn’t affect their willingness to fix the problem they caused.
Rather than be extorted, we chose to let the domains expire. They assured us that they now would expire as they should have four years ago, since they would put in the order to cancel them themselves. They were more than happy to expire the domains for free.
In the end, it is no big tragedy, but simply a minor shame. We had long since moved all our other domains to a different registrar, having experienced years of weirdness with Westhost. But they needlessly chased away a customer, wasted two hours of our time, and snuffed out the last hopes of the small community that had once rallied around those domains.