When we moved into our rural home over 5 years ago, there wasn’t much choice concerning the Internet. It was either slow dial up over bad quality country phone lines or expensive line-of-sight wireless (microwave) Internet by either Storm or RipNet (out of Brockville, ON).
We got both Storm and RipNet in to do a sight survey, and Storm wanted $1200 to put up a tower, while Ripnet wanted just some $200 for a small tripod to put on top of the roof. Naturally, we went with Ripnet in August 2005. In order to minizime the cost to us, we signed up on a three year contract so we would not have to pay any installation charges. The fee for Internet access was $40/month plus $20 for equipment rental. For this we got 3 Mb/s, which was very fast back then.
Over the years, new technologies came and went until this spring Bell came out with the Turbo Stick, a cellular based internet service that promises “up to” 21 Mb/s. Being well past our first three years into Ripnet, thinking I was on some sort of a month-to-month thing with them, I signed up with Bell on the condition we could get reception at home.
I installed everything at home, and what do you know, we got “excellent reception” and 12 Mb/s, which was about 5 times faster than what we got with Ripnet. After a full two weeks of testing, Bell was up 100% of the time, versus Ripnet which always seem to have problems (especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings, much to the chagrin of my wife). Plus, Bell’s service was only $39.95/month with no access fees or equipment charges. It seemed to be a no brainer.
I contacted Ripnet to tell them I was going to cancel. A few days later I got an email back saying I was in the middle of a contract and if I wanted to get out of it I would have to pay 50% of the remaining value, plus a $90 “retrieval fee” for the equipment.
I wrote them back saying they were wrong and that my contract expired a few years back.
They replied by sending me a PDF of the contract I signed five years ago, and pointed to the following section:
1.2 Term: The term of this Agreement(“Term”) commences as of the date of installation of the Hardware and terminates, subject to renewal and early termination, on the last day of the time frame selected by you under Residential Service Plans in 1.1, above. Either party may give at least thirty (30) days’ advance written notice of its intention to terminate this Agreement as of the last day of the Term. Otherwise, this Agreement shall automatically renew for a successive term of identical time period on the same terms and conditions as set forth in this Agreemen, subject to reasonable changes in the fee schedule charged by Supplier to remain current with Supplier’s then applicable rates. Supplier will provide reasonable notice to Customer of changes in rates prior to each renewal of the Agreement.
So, without my knowledge (and who ever reads these contracts??) they had automatically renewed my contract by another three year term, and I was now two years into it, unable to cancel it.
Now, I realise this agreement is perfectly legal. And legal council tells me it is quite normal for such a contract to be signed between bigger corporations, although not usually between a corporation and the public. So, it is legal, but it is not a very nice way to treat your “valued customers” (as we are called on the Ripnet website). A courtesy mailing or call just before the automatic renewal comes up would have been a nice touch. Maybe even offer an opt-out like many other companies are doing now.
Anyway, I pointed out to them their precious contract didn’t say ANYTHING about $90 “retrieval fee” so I demanded they take that off the bill. Begrugingly, they did.
So, now I owe them about $250 plus tax. I am saving about $40/month with the cheaper service now, so in the end I’ll gain, but I am not very happy to let Ripnet get away with treating their “valued customers” like they are faceless money machines.
I am told I can send them a check marked “under protest” and take it up with small claims court over the fact that it is not very clear that the term gets automatically renewed.
Still deciding on that one.