Mark is pissed at HughesNet satellite internet service for downgrading his bandwidth allowance from 350MB per 4 hour period, to 375 MB per 24 hour period.
Even though his contract says that if HNS modifies billing or pricing terms, customers may leave contract without penalty, Hughes is adamant that he pay a termination fee if he cancels.
We’re looking forward to reading an article in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review called “Companies and the Customers Who Hate Them,” centering on companies’ “adversarial value-extracting strategies.” We wonder if it talks about the proclivity of certain businesses to ignore the doctrine of contracts being void following material changes to them.
Mark’s screed, inside…
I have been using HughesNet satellite internet service — you’ve probably seen the ads all over DirecTV (who is also owned by Hughes Networks). As you may know, satellite ISP’s limit the subscribers’ usage, generally based on x MB per hour during a period of x hours. DirecWay/HughesNet’s policy before somewhere around 3:00AM April 18th was that the subscribers on the Professional plan could upload/download up to 350MB per 1-4 hour period.
After 3:01AM April 18th, their so-called “Fair Access Policy” changed to say that now the subscribers can download 375MB but in a TWENTY FOUR HOUR period! What’s worse is, if you download more than 375MB in your 24 hour period (which by the way is a rolling period of time — therefore you never get reset to zero unless you unplug your modem for 24 hours!), then you will be rated limited to sub-dialup speeds for TWENTY FOUR HOURS! The rate limit punishment time used to be 12 hours before this new policy came into effect!
I have been on the phone with both the Technical and Billing departments all the way up to Tier 4 support multiple times, who all claim that my service has been upgraded by 25MB and they cannot understand how I’m not happy about the new change! After I requested to be released from my contract, as this change constituted a change of service, each representative told me that it was impossible under any circumstances to be released from my contract without paying the cancellation fee, despite the fact that their Subscriber Agreement policy clearly states the opposite — it is no different than a cell network agreement: if the provider changes the service, the subscriber reserves the right to cancel without penalty within 30 days of the change taking place.
My 5+ hours of phone conversation with them has been fruitless. After reading back Tier 3 billing support their own Subscriber Agreement policy regarding release from contract and explaining to the representative that it clearly stated that I could be released from my contract if Hughes changed the service, the representative told me that he didn’t come to that conclusion after reading it, and that he wasn’t a lawyer so he couldn’t say for sure either way!
The bottom line here is that HughesNet has lied to their own employees, who are then lying to all the customers. HughesNet has taken on far too many subscribers onto their network, thus overloading it. My bandwidth is ridiculous. I’m on the 1MB/200kb Professional plan and I’m at best receiving 500k/80k. Most of the time my speeds are abysmal, to say the least. Tier 4 technical support has confirmed that both their equipment and my equipment are fully functional and will no longer receive any cases from my account!
Frustrated out of my mind, I sat down and typed up the following complaint letter and mailed it to the Customer Support complaint center as instructed by both Tier 3 technical support and Tier 4 billing support. PLEASE feature my story! I’m trapped by these weasels!
ATTN: Customer Service / Billing / Complaints
11717 Exploration Lane
Germantown, Maryland 20876
To Whom It May or May Not Concern:
On April 19th, I learned of your recent change of the Fair Access Policy beginning on April 18th. According to the explanation of the changes in policy on HughesNet’s Customer Service pages, I would be granted an additional 25MB toward my Download Threshold, for a total of 375MB on my DW7000 Professional plan. Your previous FAP granted me 350MB to use within a 1-4 hour period, so, upon seeing this 25MB increase, I was initially excited at my newfound bandwidth.
Unfortunately, that excitement quickly faded as I became suspicious as to why such an increase would be given to me. Certainly, I concluded, this could not be because HughesNet had struck a large deposit of bandwidth in the abundant bandwidth fields of West Texas and, overcome with benevolence towards its subscribers, had extended the blessings to one such as myself. My suspicion was confirmed as I surfed my way through the bowels of the Customer Service pages to discover that the recovery period had now been doubled from the previous 12 hours to 24 hours.
At that point, I realized how misleading and deceitful the initial announcement had been. Let me make it clear that I am not opposed to the institution of the Fair Access Policy. I am merely opposed to the changes HNS has recently made to that policy. The fact of the matter is that you have overloaded your system with subscribers to the point that the 12 hour threshold punishment period isn’t releasing enough bandwidth into the commune for the other subscribers. So, under the guise of upgrading your service, you actually placed harsher restrictions on the customers. But it gets worse.
You have also failed to mention anywhere on your website that along with the new 24 hour recovery period (which, by the way, was not presented as a change), the period of time in which you may not exceed your download threshold has increased from 1-4 hours to an astounding 24 hours! A quick calculation will demonstrate that this effectively decreases the amount of data you may download in any given day by 82%. If I was able to download 350mb during a 1-4 hour period each day, I would be able to download 2,100mb every 24 hours. Under the new policy, I am only allowed to download 375mb every 24 hours! Now, if you’d like to reduce my bill by 82% to correspond with the reduced data limit, I may consider keeping my service. But that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? And I’m not finished…
A long series of phone calls (amid random disconnects) all the way through Tier 4 of your Corporate Billing department and through Tier 3 of your Technical Service department led me to the conclusion that you have also been deceitful to your own employees. I spoke with a multitude of incompetent individuals who only served to solidify this conclusion:
Apparently your entire staff (save for one level-headed soul in Tier 3 Tech Support) believes that you reserve the right to freely modify any part of the “[Subscriber] Agreement, the Service or related pricing or billing terms” without allowing customers who do not agree with the new changes to be released from their contracts without penalty. Using this logic, HNS could decide tomorrow to raise my fee to $500 per month and reduce my download threshold to 1MB, and I would still be forced to pay an early termination fee if I wished to cancel my service. This is pure lunacy and is not in line with your own Subscriber Agreement.
2.3. TERMINATION BY SUBSCRIBER.
In the event that HNS modifies this Agreement, the Service or related pricing or billing terms, you may immediately terminate your account and this Agreement. Subject to your payment of the termination charges herein described, you may also do so at any other time and for any reason on written notice to HNS.
Clearly, your policy states that the subscriber will only be subjected to termination charges if they cancel for any reason other than HNS making a change. The clause “Subject to your payment of the termination charges herein described” is implicitly referring to the subscriber’s canceling of the service if HNS has not modified the service and does not apply to cancellations due to change of service. Let me repeat: Section 2.3 in no way, shape, or form states that you will be subjected to cancellation fees if the service has been changed! Your service has most certainly changed for the worse — 82% worse, in fact. Therefore, I am entitled – and demanding – to be released from my contract immediately, sans termination fee.
— BEN POPKEN