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How to deal with unfair charges from hosting company

Charity charged for the hosting provider's lack of competence

     
9:07 am on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've redeveloped the website of a children's charity using Wordpress on a pro-bono basis. I'd have hosted it as well but they're tied in a contract with their hosting company which

-use Windows IIS server
-provide only ftp access
-don't provide an equivalent to cpanel which means you're completely reliant on them to make significant chages.

We've encountered some permalinks and redirects problems when we've uploaded the new website

- wordpress site not accessible initially because index.php was not added to list of document indexes
- wordpresss was then only accessible by typing domain.com/index.php
- all pages were then accessible as domain.com/index.php/page
- all pages with AND without trailing slash were returning 200 status code, same for www and non-www so major duplicate issues if left unfixed
- permanent redirects from old static pages to new pages were not working (they tried meta refresh first until I told them I need 301 status code to be returned)

This was all fixed.

Another thing I asked for is to fix some secondary domain redirects which they messed up in the first place (alias domainA.com was indexed by Google as distinct website to domain.com even though they're one and the same causing major duplicate issue).

I find out this morning that they are charging the charity 650 for this! They say they logged 15 hours which I find astonishing considering this would take half hour max on properly configured Apache.

I feel this is really unfair as it wasn't about any customization or bells and whistles it was about fixing redirects that THEY messed up in the first place and making sure their server is configured properly to run wordpress without causing duplicate issues. So they're basically charging EXTRA for making sure they are providing the service they're already paid to provide!

I am well pissed off as I feel this charity is charged unfairly for the company's lack of competence and for the time they needed to LEARN how to fix the problem.

What arguments can I use to help this charity out of paying this extortionate amount of money? What can they do?

Any suggestions welcome
10:15 am on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The first thing i'd do is to review the Terms and Conditions the Charity agreed to. That way you can find the end of term or exit options.

If there are no such options, it may fall under the term of 'unfair contracts.' That's where you'd need a philanthropic lawyer to help out.

If the Terms and Conditions are broken by either party there would be a break clause/penalty of some sort. However, I cannot see the hosting company wanting to break the deal of 650, especially if that's per annum.

The best way out is to find the exit options and end it as per the contract as it's likely to save money.
10:40 am on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks engine. I'm getting the T&Cs now.

Also, can I just ask for your opinion, do you feel these charges are fair/unfair? I'm obviously involved so getting an outsider's opinion would be good, just to make sure I've not gone bonkers!
11:06 am on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The misconfigurations you mention are quite common across the web. The knowledge isn't widespread. Most hosting companies seem to be completely clueless.

It seems they regard this as "customisation" work and not as "standard configuration". The "meta refresh" was also telling. It's time to move hosts.
11:17 am on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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But they are still misconfigurations which resulted in problems with search engines, e.g. shortcomings on THEIR end which seems unfair to charge the client for.

Apparently changing hosts isn't so simple because they host some other sister sites... I've offered to host the whole lot for free. I'm helping them draft an email to dispute the charges now... I have some idea of the arguments I can include but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
11:28 am on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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>Also, can I just ask for your opinion, do you feel these charges are fair/unfair?

I don't think anyone can pass an objective opinion without knowing the agreement, the host facilities and the service level agreement involved.

Without taking sides on this, some customers/clients are quite hard work and require a lot of extra involvement. Others are easy to deal with and can be more cost effective to deal with. It could be that the host has set their rate on the work involved, or the equipment involved, or combination of both. That's pure speculation.

The tech issue are entirely different from an 'unfair contact' of course.
6:03 pm on May 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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There is one issue that is unanswered or at least unclear.

When support was contacted, was the client informed that this is **billable** time? Or is it buried in their agreement?

I can't think of a single entity that won't inform you "sure, we can do that, at our hourly rate." If this notice never came, it's a pretty good grounds to fight it.
10:11 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The contract usually states just about everything is billable. You gotta just put this down to poor choice of hosting (or technology if hosting was already agreed), wordppress/php on a shared IIS is a bad choice, you need LAMP/Cpanel
9:07 am on June 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Jumping in late with this one, but I'm interested to hear what was found in the TOS?

I see it as completely inappropriate for a hosting company to charge such a large amount for what is clearly a severe lack of basic knowledge.

Wordpress is an extremely popular script, which if they've not familiarised themselves with how to properly configure an environment for shows that your clients charity may well indeed be the only client they have!

I work for a medium sized UK hosting company, we wouldn't dream of charging a client for looking into such issues, it just isn't ethical.
12:03 pm on June 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We never got to look at the TOS. Based on the email that I drafted they agreed to waive the invoice in full.
 

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