I Upgraded My MagicJack, Lost Years Of Prepaid Service

DL likes MagicJack phone service, and prepaid for five years in advance. That was probably a really good deal until he decided that he would rather have a MagicJack Plus. That model doesn’t need to be connected to a computer. Much more convenient, but one problem: DL’s prepaid years wouldn’t transfer. Now he wants to sue them in small claims court, but they won’t tell him where to serve the papers. He turned to us for help.

He writes:

I had a regular Magic Jack and wanted to upgrade to a Magic Jack plus but since I had paid for 5 years of service in advance and they said the years were not transferable to the MJ Plus I didn’t do it. Then there was a 48 hour offer where the years would be transferable, so I did it. Only the years did not transfer.

Now they say there is no way they can move the years service, and it is my fault because I did not click something or press something. I have spent at least 7 hours attempting to straighten this out in online chat.

I have repeatedly asked for their “agent for process” in my home state so I can take them to small claims court, But they have not given it to me and in fact cut off the chat. I have saved several of the chats.

You don’t need the company to give you that name and address. It’s not hard to find yourself. If a company does business in your state, it has to have a registered agent. You just need one piece of information: the name of MagicJack’s parent company. That’s YMAX Communications. Take that information to the government agency in your state that registers corporations. Here in New York, for example, that’s the Department of State. You can search their database online.

This record will contain the address and phone number of the company nearest you that is the registered agent. Call them to make sure they’re still the registered agent, then serve ‘em with papers. If you do, be sure to let us know how things turned out.

RELATED:
Suing Big Companies In Small Claims Court Is Fun And Easy
Consumer Reports Science Shows Magic Jack Is Actually Worthwhile

Comments

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  1. FreshPorcupineSalad says:

    I hate blaming the OP, but if he did in fact “not click something or press something” then it probably legally is his fault.

    • seth_lerman says:

      Also, aren’t those things like TiVo where the prepaid service is tied to the hardware, not a user account? TiVo is quite upfront about that but does occasionally offer upgrades (usually a fee to transfer lifetime service to a new box).

      Same situation. If the service was tied to the hardware but there was a special where you could transfer it during a certain period of time, user didn’t do something during that process and now the promotion is over…

    • RandomHookup says:

      Even if he didn’t hit the right button, shouldn’t a company have a way to fix that? Neither humans nor technology is infallible.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        Only if they are competent.

      • Astravian says:

        Exactly, I’ve been on plenty of websites that have such crappy cross-browser compatibility that forms display improperly or don’t even submit at all. Now if he was trying to do this from Netscape… well, then I have no sympathies :)

    • Lyn Torden says:

      But WHAT button did he need to click? Did it show up on an obvious way?

      If there was an offer that said it would transfer years, AND if there was a button to click on for that offer, THAT should be sufficient. At that point they CAN KNOW that is the type of offer he is going for, as long as he goes through the process.

      Buttons need to be obvious and clear, AND the web site developers/operators are the ones responsible for making sure that web standards are properly complied with (I’ve seen sites where things like critical buttons only show up off the edge of the page because their web developers as a whole were incompetent). Every major graphical browser released in the past 3 (or better 5) years MUST have full support with respect to making sure all LEGAL aspects work (e.g. buttons MUST show up and LOOK like a button AND say what they are for).

      • ChuckECheese says:

        Usually these days, web forms won’t let you proceed unless you’ve clicked all the right buttons and filled out all the form fields. So this claim on MJ’s part that the OP failed to click something – yet MJ was able to collect the OP’s money for service – sounds bogus.

      • UberGeek says:

        I was nervous upgrading from MJ to MJ+ for fear of just this event. I read every prompt carefully and had a backout plan (donate the old one to the in-laws) in the event I jacked it up. It was not hard and the instructions were explicit (not XXX explicit, heh heh). But if you just click through thinking it’ll be cake, you could easily do what the OP did. It would’ve been great to include a quick-start transfer procedure stuck to each device for each transfer-eligible order, but that would’ve been a logistics nightmare.

      • Jimmy37 says:

        Uh, yes, it was quite clear when I did it. There were only two choices on the screen:
        - Transfer your current subscription to the new device, keep the current phone number, and shut down the old one.
        - Keep your old device with its subscription and use the new device with its new subscription. You also get a new phone number.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      This is 100% the OP being stupid. He WILL LOSE in small claims.

    • HeadWrench says:

      The other aspect of the original post is MagicJack’s cold hearted contempt for their customers. They made no attempt to make an adjustment for his concerns. It appears to me that management wants to insulate itself from customers by the use of online chat through a third party. You’ll notice on their website that there is no other way to contact them.

      I also responded to their “48 hour” offer and was able to successfully transfer my remaining years to the new MJ+. However, what they didn’t disclose in the promotion was that because they consider this an “upgrade” you forfeit the free year of service that is normally included when you purchase the MJ+ hardware. Their “support” by online chat was a worthless deadend. They even thought it was beneficial to point out to me that: ”In fact using MagicJack service you get the lowest rates compare to other VOIP service and you save a lot of bucks and you benefit all of its features for free.”

      True, it is a cheap service – but you always get what you pay for. I will say though, that the MJ Plus is definitely an improvement over the original.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    I hate to blame the OP here but I have to. Nobody should ever pre-pay for 5 years of a service these days because of the inherent uncertainty in life. It is RARELY a good deal in the long except for the company.

    With that said:

    YMax Communications may be served with process through its registered agent:
    CT Corporation System, 1200 South Pine Island Rd, Plantation, Florida, 33324

    • JollySith says:

      Magic Jack’s 5 year contract is pretty cheap. The savings are pretty substantial over the 1 year pre paid.
      I hate my magic jack. It eats up processor function. No one can use the PC it is plugged into while anyone else is on the phone. If a call comes in while the monitor is asleep and I hit the enter key to wake up the monitor so I can see the caller ID it answers the phone through my computers speakers, which might be nice if i had a mic set up. It adds 5 minutes to my computers boot up time. The whole thing feels ghetto and cheap. It also has troubles functioning through a USB hub so i have to keep a dedicated usb port just for it.

  3. joelw says:

    In many states, including NY, you don’t need to serve the agent. Serve the Secretary of State, who will then serve the defendant’s registered agent. Easy.

  4. wolf says:

    Actually it is this guys fault for trying to update the old Magic Jack without speaking to a Representative first and getting a little information first ….. I really like my Magic Jack and will be getting the wall plug in asap — but really blaming the company for his mistake in not doing his home work is slightly wrong

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      No, it is your fault for having terrible reading comprehension. He specifically states that he wanted to upgrade, but when he contacted them they said he couldn’t transfer the purchased years of service. Then they told him he COULD do it, within a 48 hour window. So he followed their instructions, they didn’t do it, and now they refuse to own up to it.

      So where did he fail to do that homework you speak of? Sure looks like he looked before he leapt.

  5. DrLumen says:

    Here is a BBB entry for them but has a different address than the one above.

    http://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/telephone-equipment-and-systems-retail/magicjack-lp-in-west-palm-beach-fl-92003333

    MagicJack LP
    Phone: (561) 594-2140
    Fax: (561) 586-2328
    5700 Georgia Avenue
    West Palm Beach, FL 33405
    http://www.magicjack.com

  6. nickmoss says:

    I would bet that collecting on any small claims judgement would cost far more than the amount the OP pre-paid.

    • PercussionQueen7 says:

      Holy carp, this. 7 hours of my time already spent and the cost to file in small claims? AND, the time to go through the small claims process? No way is that going to be worth it in the end.

    • one swell foop says:

      It would unless he asks the court to make the defendant pay his court costs in the event that he wins.

  7. mbd says:

    I also hate blaming the OP, but what exactly is he going to sue them for? Judge, I didn’t follow the instructions and incurred extra costs due to my mistake. Please make them give me my money back.

    • Captain Spock says:

      well you see in this WORLD OF TOMORROW we can make changes to electronic devices.

      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        Yep, but they don’t have to. You can’t sue for crappy deals if they weren’t misrepresented, unless you’re being harmed by collusion, illegal practices in contracting, or anything like that.

        There’s a difference between “misrepresented” and “not obviously stated” that a lot of people which wasn’t there. And if we’d ACTUALLY pass some pro-consumer laws, maybe the gap would narrow some. But that’s not the world we live in right now.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      The OP says that MJ is using the “you didn’t click something” (what?) excuse as a reason not to honor the deal he signed up for. The OP isn’t saying “I am an idiot who can’t use a web form and deserve to be punished.” It’s clear from what the OP is saying that he believes that MJ is acting in bad faith.

    • regis-s says:

      Except he claims he followed the instructions and asked for his prepaid time to be transferred. They claim he didn’t. Who’s right would be up to the judge.

  8. RandomHookup says:

    MagicJack also does a pretty crappy job of running a professional women’s soccer team.

    • chiieddy says:

      Yes, but the WPS was also at fault for not building in safety structures to prevent rogue owners from taking down the league. MLS has this one thing right.

  9. DJBS77 says:

    I was in the same situation as the OP, and I tried to take advantage of their offer to upgrade with a transfer of years, Magicjack never sent me the magicjack plus and appears to have cancelled my order. Lucky me.

  10. ScandalMgr says:

    Every state maintains a business name registry.

    These registries are maintained by the Secretary of State and Department of Revenue in Washington.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Correct. But sometimes you don’t know who/what the agent’s name is.

      • George4478 says:

        When I went through this in Georgia I didn’t have any idea who the agent’s name was. I put in the company’s name and it told me who the local agent was.

        That was, after all, why I went to the state’s website in the first place.

  11. dicobalt says:

    Contracts… yea.

  12. crispyduck13 says:

    Just like you shouldn’t pay a contractor in full upfront you shouldn’t pay Magic Jack for years of service in full. You should also never fall for deals that are “only good for 48 hours.” Those deals typically don’t look very good after you’d have a few days to think about it, they are meant to prey on people’s sense of urgency over, well, good sense.

  13. Kahlidan says:

    The worst problem with MagicJack is their lack of any real support-the only option is outsourced tech chat and all they do is follow scripts, making it almost useless. I used to have one and it worked decently, but wanted something that wasn’t attached to a PC. I ended up buying a Nettalk Duo and it’s a significant improvement. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot more reliable (no weird busy signals, toll free numbers actually work) and they don’t block conference (party line) numbers like MJ does. They also have actual support you can call if you need to, although I haven’t done so.

  14. Lyn Torden says:

    If a company doing business in your state refuses to tell you where you can serve the papers, then (in most states) you can “serve by publication”. Just keep a full record of your effort to find where to serve them. You may get a default judgment worth a few fancy office chairs.

  15. do-it-myself says:

    I love my Magicjack Plus! I also loved how after I dropped my Comcast Voice, they wanted me to pay $40 a month while my MagicJack Plus was the same amount for an entire year. I had to tell the Rep. that called me about 3 times in a row until she made the independent decision to no longer regurgitate her script.

    Consider it a $99 lesson. Look at it from their situation, who are they to know whether or not you want to pay one price for two devices? But they should be able to see whether you had ceased using your old device….but I’m sure they don’t get enough revenue to pay people to check into those things.

  16. chucksplatt says:

    My mostly technologically illiterate mother bought one of these and I had to set it up for her. She’s using it to replace her old landline now, but of course it means she has to keep her (ancient) computer on all the time and had to move her phone close to it, and the phone in her bedroom is no longer connected to it Even though it has a voicemail feature, my mom insists on keeping the physical answering machine attached to it, because it will upset my dad too much if he can’t see that a call has been missed with any cue less blatant than a big flashing lighted button. *sigh*

    ANYWAYS, I’ve gone through the setup process on this thing with my mom, and it is one of the most annoying things ever to get going. They try to sell you on a years-long prepaid plan or upsell you some feature on every other step in the process. Fortunately, my mom is too cheap to want to shell so much out up front, so she’s going year to year. If you want to keep an old number, it’s $x dollars additional PER YEAR (not a one time fee). If you want a custom number it’s also $x dollars per year. I don’t doubt that if they are marketing some kind of promotion, then they would make you jump through some obscure hoop to actually honor it. I mean, I get that it’s business, but I hate to think what would have happened if I wasn’t around to explain to my mom the charges.

    So, yeah, after my experience with their product, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. I still fully anticipate that my mom will get extremely frustrated with this service at some point and regret ever trying it.

    • scoosdad says:

      Not to mention that keeping her ancient computer on all the time is like leaving a 200, 300, or 400 watt light bulb lit at all times on her electric bill, depending on what kind of power supply is in it. They’re not known for being too terribly efficient, either.

      Magic Jack, voicemail, and the older generation sounds like a story Jay Leno used to tell about his dad not wanting to use the remote control for the TV because it would wear out the batteries. My mom has a laptop and still is online at age 85, but somehow I think her having Magic Jack would greatly increase the number of tech support calls she places to my number (using her cell, of course).

    • Oh_No84 says:

      All your problems are user error and being stupid.
      I use magic jack when I travel the world for work and it is awesome. It is very easy to set up and use. It has worked in various countries without issues.
      As for the entire house, if you newer phones (that use less power) then you can just disconnect the telco line and the nid and plug the magic jack into one phone jack which will connect all the other jacks. You could also buy a multi cordless phone system for under $100.
      As for upselling, I bought mine at Best Buy and activated it online. I never talked to a person to be upsold anything.

      As for the porting fee, I looked it up on their website and forums from other users. Everyone says it is one time fee of $19.95 to port a number. Why did you lie?
      Also remember it is $20 a year vs $20 a month. It is cheap and it works. What is so wrong about that??

      • chucksplatt says:

        The upsell is part of the setup process itself. You don’t talk to a person on the phone, but they prompt at every other step on whether you want to add some feature for a price. I admit to only recalling that the number port was an additional yearly fee, or that was the impression that I got. I’ll freely admit I could be mistaken about that. But I do recall that there was some feature about the phone number that they were trying to upsell which would result in an additional yearly fee rather than a one time one (probably the pick your number feature).

        You talk about user error and being stupid, but that is precisely my worry about someone like my mom using the service (though I would use the word “ignorant” instead of “stupid”.) I had no problem understanding the process, and if it was for me, then I could handle it and get what I want. But the product is marketed as usable for the general public. I’ve seen the infomercials for this product, and it is clear they try to portray it as something even a child can set up and use. There was no way my mom could have set it up for herself and it took much longer than either of us anticipated, mainly because I had to sit there and explain each prompt to my mom and what it meant, and partially because her understanding of English is limited.

        They willfully market their product to a demographic that they know would be easier to bilk into paying more than they were expecting. As it is, by deciding to go year to year instead of the prepaid package, my mom will already be paying more than $20/year for the service. Cheaper than her landline? Absolutely. But that was not the deal she was expecting when she originally bought the product, and it was frustrating to her when she realizes it. All I’m saying is that their promotions and marketing are built from the ground up to be full of loopholes and fine print and directed towards those who won’t notice them, so nothing in this post surprises me.

        • erinpac says:

          They did increase the price in January from $20 to $30, but I really have never found the setup so difficult. I ave a relative who still uses AOL to browse because it is too confusing to change, and even with that gets help to check email… and they were fine with the MagicJack. I guess it does require reading the prompts. As a pleasant surprise, using the first year that was included with the device didn’t even require a payment method for the future, as so many things do now.

          I switched to an Ooma instead of upgrading to the MagicJack Plus though. I figure they do not have to be around that long to make it worth the money, and every year after that is a free bonus. There’s pretty much no noticeable difference between it and the old landline now.

  17. 55961 says:

    We did this deal too. Plugged it in, popup came up with the choice to get a new number and one year free or switch the current years and number over. There was one box to check for each and the information was somewhat large. Absent forcing the transfer of number/years over, I’m not sure how much easier MJ coulda made this one.

  18. Oh_No84 says:

    The OP will lose this small claims case.
    The OP can keep using the 5 years of magic jack with the device he activated it on. You cannot transfer it. They make this very, very clear.
    What a waste of a consumerist article and everyones time!

  19. llsee says:

    Wow, I was in the exact same place as the OP. I had recently signed for the 5 year extension, and received the Email offer to upgrade to the MJ+. I too took advantage of the offer. When my MJ+ arrived in the mail, I followed the instructions online and…. IT WORKED! Exactly as advertised. Gee, it is amazing what happens when you follow instructions, and they were pretty simple.

  20. 180CS says:

    HEY DL!

    Get GVJackApp. It turns your MagicJack into a google voice box. Hookup a phone, and you’re suddenly using google voice instead of not-so-magic-jack. http://download.cnet.com/GVJack-App-for-magicJack/3000-2349_4-75703619.html

    TRULY FREE unlimited local and long distance. And when goggle starts charging, I think a penny a minute is still a lot less for most of us…I also think Google voice is 10x better, as you can use it, check VMs, block numbers, etc; all from their web interface…anytime, anywhere.

  21. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    I’ll add my $0.02 about the risks of preparing several years in advance as well. You never know when a company is going to go belly-up and become unable/unwilling to honor their agreements. The amount would be far too small to bother with a lawsuit. A class-action would probably result in getting a check someday for a couple dollars.

    That said, I avoided leaving a desktop computer on all the time when I had one with a one-time purchase of a thinclient (about $75) which was consumed very little power (no monitor, fans, or hard drive to worry about. Even then, the call quality was sub-par.. (less than cellphone quality)

    Neither the thinclient nor the magicjack seemed to like being underwater for a few hours. So upon personal experience and the net hive mind, I bought an Ooma Telo and have been extremely pleased with it. Likewise, on a mostly impulse purchase, I bought a Net Talk Duo to set up a dedicated fax line on my All-In-One printer.. Works just fine for that, again without a PC, for less than a regular Magic Jack, let alone the Plus version.

  22. Jimmy37 says:

    I also took them up on their offer.

    When I activated my unit online, I got a screen that asked whether or not I wanted to transfer my current subscription to the new unit to extend its service. It explained that if I did do that, my old unit would be deactivated since it no longer had service. The other choice was to keep my old unit and its service intact. I don’t think the OP actually lost his old subscription.

  23. ancientone567 says:

    Buy OOMA that is what I have. Problem solved.

    • Press1forDialTone says:

      Buy AT&T (the most basic) landline service. That is what I have. Never ever a problem and
      crystal clear calls. Problem solved. Cingular only bought the wireless AT&T division
      knowing it would take YEARS to get it up to snuff. The landline service went on
      intact and it still works great.

  24. Chill4291 says:

    I prepaid for 2 years of service through them. After 1 years time we were being billed if we wanted to continue service. Dealing with them was so difficult we just said forget it.
    Every member of our house hold has a cell phone and each time the house phone range we argued over who should answer it. So loosing the land line was easier then putting up with Magic jack.

  25. Press1forDialTone says:

    Magic Jack is just barely this side of a scam.
    It may be a little less shady (but obviously just as heartless)
    now but probably not by much.
    When I saw the first commercial that said it was at Radio Shack
    I checked it out and didn’t like what I saw. The folks at our 2
    local Radio Shack’s were TOLD not to push MJ or offer it as
    an alternative. They should sell it ONLY if someone asked for
    it. Weird. Their technology also sucks the big one. Friends have
    complained about static on the line dropouts and cut-offs and
    they’re sitting in their own home ?!
    My advice: There is no free lunch. Stay away from MJ. Hey that rhymes!

  26. Robert Nagel says:

    I don’t think the advice is correct. You do not need to have a registered agent to do business in a state. You need a registered agent for your corporation in your state of incorporation. If you need to sue them in a state in which they did business, but do not have a presence you sue them through your secretary of state. They pass the suit along to the offending companies secretary of state and they present the papers to them on your behalf. If they have a presence in the state, such as a store, office, property, etc. you can file suit against theme there.