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Credit card companies should beware of payments to Skype.

BIScom Subsection: 
Nigel Morris-Cotterill

If a little shop told its customers that they could have a special offer that cost x, then denied them when they arrived, then told them the price was actually 15% more than x, then when the bill arrived it was for a further 20%, credit card companies would be deluged with complaints and chargebacks. But that is exactly what Microsoft's Skype does, as Nigel Morris-Cotterill demonstrates.

Here's the story: one of my corporate credit cards was used fraudulently to make payments to the AA Driving School in the UK (they have ignored my correspondence about that, but that's another story). So the card was cancelled. It's weird that that card was used by a fraudster because it never leaves my desk: it is used only for on-line transactions and for several recurring payments such as my mobile phone, Skype subscriptions, internet hosting contracts, my secure e-mail and VPN for when I'm travelling.. all the important stuff that, without it, life comes to a crashing halt. I can't use it outside because I haven't known (or remembered) the PIN for it for years. Because the card was cancelled for reasons of fraud, the bank doesn't transfer standing orders to the new card which leaves me having to scramble to give the information to all the suppliers and all the lost time and frustrations that entails, especially as the suppliers are on multiple continents and on various time zones.

Skype is particularly unforgiving when a card doesn't work. They bill, then they cancel the account without warning (except it's happened to me so many times I am forewarned by experience. That's their policies and we have to live with them for the simple reason that Skype international calling subscriptions are a basic tool for someone who spends large chunks of his time away from home.

So it was that on the 10th May, my calls subscription was cancelled with Skype's bizarre "your subscription has been successfully cancelled" message. Hardly a success when the whole issue is that some criminal has somehow got hold of my card details, defrauded my company and then left me with the headache of getting a new card and renewing details all over the place. And, in any case, as the message said, it would cease on 11 May when it actually expired. What Skype don't tell you is that once they announce (actually a few days before expiry) that your account has expired, you cannot renew (or if you can, I can't find out how to do it), even before the formal expiry.

Then, on 13th May, annoyingly just after I got details of the new card but otherwise pleasingly, an e-mail arrived. If I clicked on a link "today" I could renew at a special price of GBP8.49/month. Yippee, I thought. That's less than the GBP10.11 I've been paying (of course, I would have had no idea what it was costing had I not looked at the account in order to renew it and failed).

"Hi Nigel, Just to let you know that your existing subscription *Unlimited World 1 month** has expired. Renew your subscription [there's a long and complicated link] today for current cost of GBP8.49/month to stay in touch with friends and family using your Skype subscription. Skype."

Yippee, I remind you, I thought and clicked. It didn't work. I logged onto my account, or tried to. That didn't work either.

And as if the whole situation wasn't already bad enough, that was where it began to go downhill fast and I was introduced to Microsoft's policy of saying one price, refusing it, and then billing even more than they said the second time around - with the end price more than 40% more than the offer they first made.