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Westhost is Holding My domains for Ransom

I have been with Westhost for 8 years. I’ve had a variety of experiences keeping up 4 websites, emails and 12 domains. They left one of my websites stranded for years when they migrated to a new platform, leaving me to make that conversion on my own with a 10 page site. My search for a web developer who was willing to perform the transfer reflected spending thousands of dollars. So my primary domain site sat on the old platform for years.

And then one, shiny day, as I was casually talking with a tech about my primary website sitting in cobwebs,he lightly stated, “Oh, well, we do those conversions for free!” I was stunned. Stunned I tell you! I had begged and pleaded with Westhost for several years to please help me with that website…to no avail.

Three months later, they accomplished the migration and in my information email, offered me a renewal with a 5-year plan at this reduced rate. I suppose I was happy to finally get some satisfaction and opted for the 5-year plan. But that decision two years ago, has now turned to be a big mistake.

This week, I discover that I lost 2 key domains I had purchased in 2012 from Westhost. One of these domains is a .com which is named after my key product. When I inquired Westhost as to how I managed to ‘loose’ the two domains, I was informed that my automatic payment (initiated by Westhost service) for the 2 domains did not go through and I was sent a notification. I couldn’t imagine the small amounts of $12.50 had not gone through either of my 2 primary credit card (cc) companies. I explained there must have been an error because I use those two cards religiously and have for years for my business. As well, of all my 10 domains which I’ve been paying for for 8 years, have always followed through successfully. But apparently, on this one particular day, 2 charges on the same day, did not go through. And each charge held the balance of my life’s work in its hands.

It was stated by Westhost, that in order to reclaim my domains, I must be willing to pay over $500 for both. A second conversation saw them bring the price down to $275 for one and $160 for the other. After 15 minutes debate, the spokesperson brought the price down even further on one domain to $72.00 (plus tax and a fee) but did not budge on the most important domain.

As mentioned previously, I have been a Westhost ‘client’ many years and relied solely on them as my web host provider. Therefore I chose to do what any bewildered customer would do, I phoned my cc companies. Requesting explanation as to why these two small charges had not gone through with each cc company (Discover and Sierra Club), I spoke with managers who were pleasant, professional and knowledgeable.

Each company informed me that if any charge had pinged at their door, the computer would record whether it was a reject or acceptance. As well, I was informed that a rejection is always provided with an explanation (e.g. expired, retired, stolen, etc). The managers of both cc’s assured me that on the dates referenced by Westhost there had been no attempts to charge the 2 amounts. In fact, 4 days prior to the date Westhost states as the “attempted ‘charge’ date”, they had managed a $29.99 charge which was successful.

Both cc companies allowed that there were plenty of proven charges coming through from Westhost prior and since but none to be referenced in this 2-week window (either charges or rejections) as Westhost was holding to. I asked the cc company to please send me a printout or letter which stated this. They offered to go one step further (as did the first cc company) and initiated a conference call. After back and forth conversation between the three of us, the Westhost tech offered to escalate the issue to a manager.

The very next day, I receive an email from the Westhost billing supervisor:

“Thank you for contacting the Billing Department and I do apologize about the issue you have had with your two domain names phoneticdictionary.net and americanwordspeller.com

I have looked back through our records and found that an email was sent to your concerning the renewal of these two domain names with a subject line: Failed Renewal – Action Required! which was emailed on 2/16/2017 at 10:23 a.m.

This email explains that we were unable to process the renewals using your payment method on file at that time. When the domain names expired the site would have been taken off line. There is a three week window that we can get the domain names back without the elevated fees. After that time period there is the redemption fee added to get the domain names back.

As which card information was on file at that time, I am sorry we do not have that information. I just know that at that time the payment was not accepted.

I am willing to provide you the same price as Riley offered to get the domain name americanwordspeller.com back. Please understand that this domain name could be put up for auction at any time and the price will be much higher.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Best Regards,

Kim Winborg

WestHost Billing Supervisor

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Westhost stated in previous conversations that they attempted billing on the 23rd. Next conversation, the charges were attempted on the 22nd. As I witness in this email, they actually meant the 16th. I’m very confused. They will not allow me the name of the credit card they used (remember, I have 2 on file (both proven to work perfectly)) and they are wishy-washy on their dates. Just seems to me, that for a $12.50 charge and 8 years as a devoted client, they would attempt to work with me. But no, I take this email response as a threat to my livelihood.

And, that I have a few years remaining on my contract, I wonder what I should do? As well, I feel complete contempt for Westhost for posing as a bully. Win or lose? I still have a contract and they have me over a barrel. I can state, with righteous dignity, that my domains are being held for ransom by Westhost. Will 2017 be remembered as a time of glutinous white collar crime? Or not?

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