Hey, Skype, Why Can't I Change My Billing Information?

Reader “Ian” has a problem with Skype. It should be relatively easy to fix, but it isn’t. His credit card was replaced in a Bank of America data breach, and all he wants to do is change the auto-billing for his Skype account to his new credit card number. Skype is apparently unable to do this, since subscriptions are tied to a specific credit card. Or something.

Over the last 1-2 years Skype has gone from being a great alternative to the greedy phone companies, to being worse than AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Comcast combined. Skype’s shady business practices are unlike anything I have experienced with ANY phone or cable company before. And I am saying this as someone who spends $150/year on Skype subscriptions and at least another $50-$75/year on additional Skype out credits.

I have had a Skype Unlimited World subscription for a long time now. When I signed up for the subscription, it not only gave you unlimited calling to landlines (at least to selected “world” countries) but also offered 3 free Skype-in numbers (normal telephone numbers for your skype account) and a Skype To-Go number (a dial in number to use skype from any phone).

I signed up for the subscription with my credit card and had it auto-renew every 3 months. Earlier this year though, BoA changed my card number (remember when BoA was compromised?). After this I used my new credit card in March to buy Skype out credits and also set up auto-recharge for those skype out-credits (it automatically buys $10 more credits if my balance falls below $2).

Last Saturday morning (June 6), I get an email that Skype failed to charge my credit card for the subscription and that the subscription will therefore be cancelled on June 9. That would not be a big deal if there actually was a way to log into your account to update the payment information and then charge the (new) card. BUT THERE IS NO WAY TO UPDATE YOUR BILLING INFORMATION FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS! I kid you not: something that can probably be done by any mom and pop show cannot be done with the billing system of one of the largest internet corporations.

Oh, there are plenty of links where one might think that you could update your billing information, but they all lead to a page where you can buy more Skype out credits. If that is the way to update the billing information, then I already did that in March when I bought Skype out credits. And that obviously did not work.

Furthermore, I am floored by the shadiness of this business practice: why are you being forced to buy something (which you potentially do not want) only to update your billing information? Seems very shady if not illegal to me. The mob might pull a trick like this but an internet company that positions itself as alternative to the “evil” telco’s?

Still, being an upright customer of Skype, I turned to their customer “service” for help. There is no way to contact customer service except through their online web form. No telephone number you can call, no chat, not even a Skype handle to call. A little strange for a “telephony” company.

Despite multiple attempts, I received two canned responses over the next two days that there is no way to update the billing info for subscriptions. You have to cancel the old subscription and buy a new subscription. This seems rather convenient, since the new subscriptions no longer offer all the benefits of the old subscriptions, so that the same package of services costs approximately twice what the old subscription cost.

I’m not sure I agree with Ian’s conspiracy theory, but this policy is extremely strange. We know that other readers have had problematic customer service (or lack thereof) experiences with Skype, but has anyone else experienced billing issues like this? Is there a really good PayPal-specific reason for it?

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