Between a Rock and a Hard Place: 123-Reg Must Really Need My £11

March 24, 2010

UPDATE: Just discovered lots of other people having their services ‘auto’-renewed without permission, and awful customer support, from the same company.

It’s coming up to 2 weeks since I submitted a seemingly straight-forward support item to 123-Reg, who I have used in the past to register domain names.

I’d like to open up this support item to you, my readers. This is not out of spite, but because I honestly can’t understand if I’m just being plain stupid. I may just be wasting their time. Please, dear readers, make me see the light.

And so, on to the story…

A year ago, while out with some clients and colleagues, I registered a stupid domain name on my iPhone for one of them. A couple of weeks ago, the year-long registration was up, and I hadn’t used the domain. So I didn’t renew it.

But…

It renewed. Much to my surprise, I received a receipt for my payment. It’s only £11, and I’m lucky enough that £11 isn’t going to cause me a huge amount of problems. But still, I have 10 domains with them, and I don’t potentially want £100 of unwanted registrations happening every year. And it’s the principle.

To those not lucky enough to have experienced the beautiful 123-Reg control panel for domains, it looks like this:

As you can see, it clearly says “Manual Renew” next to each domain, which included the domain in question. And I hadn’t manually renewed it. So I put a support item in to 123-Reg to question it.

From here on in, the story will mostly be told by me copying and pasting the support messages that went back-and-forth.

Me:

Hi,

On all my domains, they say ‘ManualRenew’, which I had EXPECTED to mean that they wouldn’t ‘automatically’ renew: what else could ‘manual renew’ mean???

So I was a little surprised to find that a domain I didn’t want any more (touchmybutter.com) has just been automatically renewed and charged to me.

Please explain how ‘manual renew’ doesn’t mean that I have to manually renew the domain.

Thanks,

Dan

“Nick” (123-Reg) responded:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 12th March 2010.

This was renewed automatically via your paypal subscription. Please see below with regards to cancelling your paypal subscription;

http://www.123-support.co.uk/Answer.aspx?ArticleID=1088

For future reference;

Please view the following link for instructions on how to set a domain name to expire:

http://www.123-support.co.uk/Answer.aspx?ArticleID=283

For further information regarding domains and domain management, please click on the Domains topic on our 123-reg support site.

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Nick

Me:

Sorry, this isn’t good enough.

First, I had no idea it was going to renew. The ‘manual renew’ next to the domain means that I should manually renew it.

Secondly, I’ve just gone to my PayPal account, followed your instructions, and I don’t have ANY information under ‘recurring payments’ (see attached).

“Faiza” (second person from 123-Reg) responds:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 12th March 2010.

I can confirm you will need to escalate this with paypal.

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Faiza

I followed this up with PayPal, and posted their response back to 123-Reg (I’ve snipped the end of the PayPal email, as it was quite lengthy). The PayPal response strongly suggested that there was no recurring agreement setup:

This really feels like I’m being given the run-around… I contacted PayPal, and they sent me the response below. What next?

Dear Daniel Zambonini,

Thank you for contacting PayPal.

I checked your account and I see that you have an active Billing Agreement for 123 Reg.co.uk (GX Networks LTD) and Linden Research, Inc. to be paid when they request payment. These agreements have been set up on 12 March 2009 and 27 November 2006 and are still active and recurrent. 

If you no longer want payments to be sent to this particular merchant, please cancel this from your end instead. 

You can view or make changes to your Billing/Payment Agreement by following these steps:

[…snipped…]

If you don’t agree, please click the ‘Cancel’ button.

Please note that a Billing/Payment Agreement is an agreement between a merchant and a buyer to authorise the merchant to withdraw funds from the customer’s PayPal account when they are making a purchase from the merchant’s website. A Merchant offers this agreement on their websites to set up an agreement with the buyer for the merchant’s items or services.

As a buyer, you must agree to the Payment Agreement before a merchant can withdraw a payment from your PayPal account. A Payment Agreement can be set up with an individual merchant to fund purchases made on the merchant’s website.

[…remainder snipped…]

“Ray” (third person from 123-Reg) then responded, seemingly totally ignoring my actual response, and just giving me instructions on how to use PayPal:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 15th March 2010.

1. Log in to your account at www.paypal.co.uk 

2. Click ‘History’ near the top of the page.

3. Click on the ‘More filters’ drop down menu.

4. Choose the ‘Subscriptions and agreements’ option, click on ‘Recurring Payments’ and finally ‘My profiles’.

5. Change the date back to when you started the Agreement and then click ‘Show’.

6. You can make changes to the funding source or cancel the agreement by clicking on the relevant links beside the subscription.

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Ray

As you can imagine, that didn’t make me the happiest little boy. I responded:

Dear Nick/Faiza/Ray/Whoever the next random person is to pick this up,

Please find attached screenshots of the page you suggested, together with other ones from around the same thing (profiles, subscriptions, transactions). I’ve even put the date back to 2002, just to be EXTRA sure.

They are all blank.

As much fun as this all is, I’d prefer not to waste TOO much more of my time, so please try to solve this within the next, say, 4 or 5 support messages we exchange.

Thanks,

Dan

Much to my surprise, the same support technician responded (codename “Ray”), although with the same ‘ignore the actual contents of the message’ technique that they’ve honed so well:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 19th March 2010.

The details of reoccurring paypal payments are not held on 123-reg they will be held in the paypal account with the email address dan@boxuk.com, we cannot cancel something we do not have access to.

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Ray

This was followed two minutes later with a second message, and for a split second, I thought they were actually trying to be useful:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 19th March 2010.

If it helps you with paypal the billing agreement ID on their system is [snipped].

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Ray

123-reg

However, as I’d already ascertained, this billing agreement did not cover any ‘subscriptions’ or ‘recurring payments’ or anything else that they’d originally told me was the cause of the payment: it was a simple agreement that said 123-Reg could request money when I agreed that they could.

So, I put a lengthy support message in, probably about a couple of hours later (I was on lunch when the message arrived). When I hit ‘submit’, I was redirected back to the login page, and my reply was lost.

Upon logging in, I discovered that the support item had been flagged as ‘Solved!’. Whoopee! Oh, wait, no. It hadn’t been.

So, time to open a new support ticket… (I couldn’t reply to the ‘Solved!’ one. Because it was Solved…). As you’ll see, CAPS-LOCK tends to start creeping in around here.

Regarding my other support ticket:

Domain was automatically renewed; didn’t want it to be ([url snipped])

I just put in a LONG response, my session timed out, so it didn’t go in. When I logged back in, the support item now reads ‘Solved’!

IT IS NOT SOLVED. THIS IS VERY PAINFUL.

Please re-open that item immediately.

As a side note, the original support item was never re-opened, so read what you will into their support success stats. As you can tell, I was actually quite angry by this point, so after checking with PayPal yet again, I posted a follow-up message:

I’m going to respond here, because I don’t have the time to wait for you to re-open the other item. But I’d still like you to re-open it, as it ISN’T solved, and your stats should reflect that.

I double-triple checked with PayPal, and there IS NO RECURRING PAYMENT set up with you:

“Thank you for contacting PayPal regarding the payment agreement amounting to £11.74 to xx@123-reg.co.uk.

I have carefully reviewed your account and it is showing that it is an active payment agreement on your PayPal account. I have provided the steps below on how you can check the details on your account.

A ‘Payment Agreement’ allows a buyer to give authorisation in advance for a merchant to charge that buyer’s PayPal account if or when they purchase goods or use the merchant’s services. An example of this would be the Automatic PayPal Payments agreement between eBay and a PayPal customer to pay their eBay fees using their PayPal account, when they list items for auction on eBay.

‘Payment Agreements’ are distinct from subscriptions which involve a fixed amount being charged to a buyer’s account for an agreed period.”

SO PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME AGAIN ABOUT HOW TO CANCEL A RECURRING PAYMENT OR WHERE TO FIND THE DETAILS.

I did NOT manually renew the domain that was flagged as ‘manual renew’, and there was no recurring payment set up. So it shouldn’t have been renewed.

Please read through the other support item before responding – I don’t want to have any more of my time wasted with you all responding with the same type of response. This is getting ridiculous.

If you dispute the recurring payment, TAKE IT UP WITH PAYPAL.

Yours in frustration,

Dan

PS It shouldn’t be this difficult to get £11 back.

I tweeted about this experience so far (probably my third tweet, actually), and I then received a phone call. This was from a nice lady called “Anisha” (the fourth 123-Reg person so far), who told me she was going to look into it immediately and get back to me with a satisfactory answer shortly.

Well, she got back to me shortly, I’ll give her that. About half an hour later, she phoned me back with the same response: I’d set up the payment in PayPal, there was some kind of “Do Not Renew” checkbox I hadn’t ticked in PayPal, so they’d took the payment, and there was nothing they could do.

A response also came on the support site the following day, from special agent “Kristy”, the fifth 123-Reg person to have picked up this support item:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 23rd March 2010.

When you initially purchased the service from us using PayPal you where given the option to automatically renew the service, you must have chosen the option to do so otherwise our system would not have processed the service for automatic renewal, also prior to the renewal of the service you are sent a reminders stating that your service is expiring and may be automatically renewed if it has been ticked for auto renewal, we then give you the link to check this. I can only advise to contact PayPal and cancel the auto renewal in there system.

This brings me to say that we do not offer refund on purchases made on automatic renewals.

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Kristy

So, again it seemed that they hadn’t actually paid any attention to anything I’d said: there was no auto-renewal set up in PayPal! And, of course, they hadn’t actually contacted PayPal themselves.

To be absolutely certain, I sent PayPal yet another email, explicitly double-checking that there had been nothing set up to renew this domain/payment. I posted PayPal’s response back to 123-Reg:

I have followed this up with PayPal, AGAIN, and they say:

“However if you are enquiring if PayPal or the merchant whom you had the subscription or Billing Agreement initiated the payment, it is the merchant who actually sends a request to PayPal to debit out a certain amount for the service they have given to you. Since this was an agreement between you and the merchant, PayPal only processed the payment upon the merchant’s request. And PayPal did not automatically take the money because the merchant was the one initiated the transaction.”

See that last line? I’ll re-iterate: “PayPal did not automatically take the money because the merchant was the one initiated the transaction”

So, where do I go from here? You’re saying PayPal took it, they’re saying you took it. Can one of you please get in contact with PayPal to follow this up? This is driving me insane.

I was hoping that this would finally get them to get in contact with PayPal, or something else positive to show that they were trying to do something about this customer service experience.

But no, of course not. They go back to the auto-renew argument, and start quoting legal terms to me! Kristy (123-Reg) responds:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 24th March 2010.

As part of the terms and conditions that you singed up to when registering with 123reg we do not refund for auto renewals as we send you enough renewal reminders and give you enough time to allow your domains to expire.

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Kristy

I was pretty angry about this, as you’ll tell from my caps-extravaganza response:

I’m going into all-caps mode now.

KRISTY – PLEASE READ THE HISTORY OF THIS SUPPORT ITEM BEFORE RESPONDING AGAIN.

IT WAS ***NOT*** SET TO AUTO-RENEW – IT WAS SET TO “MANUAL RENEW”. M-A-N-U-A-L R-E-N-E-W. I DIDN’T MANUALLY RENEW IT. BUT IT RENEWED. WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.

YOU THEN TOLD ME THAT PAYPAL AUTO-RENEWED IT. THEY HAVE EXPLICITLY TOLD ME THAT THEY DIDN’T.

Surely this would get something happening? They could surely tell by this response that their customer was not happy, and it was time for them to take action. The sixth (I think? I’ve lost count) 123-Reg trained specialist replied:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for contacting 123-reg on the 24th March 2010.

To make a formal complaint, please kindly write us a letter to the address:

123-reg.co.uk

5 Roundwood Avenue

Stockley Park

Uxbridge

UB11 1FF

United Kingdom

If you have any grievances with 123-reg and the letter will be handed over to the suitable team member responsible for handling these issues. 

Please view the following link for more information on our official complaints procedure:

http://www.123-support.co.uk/Answer.aspx?ArticleID=312

If we can be of any further help with regard to this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Omair

Yes, folks, you read that correctly. A 100% internet company, as their last resort of dealing with my support item, has told me to write a physical letter to their office to continue the matter.

And that’s where it has been left. I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to go any further. Which is probably exactly what a company like this hopes for when they put the ‘inconvenience barrier’ of a physical letter in front of you.

I’m sure my custom doesn’t matter to them. I only have about 10 domains, so at £10 a year, and assuming a 50% profit margin, and that I’d probably renew them (and a few new ones) for the next 3-4 years, this is only a lost profit of about £250-300. Not a big deal for a big company.

Should I have taken a different approach? Is this nothing to do with 123-Reg, and I shouldn’t have blind faith that PayPal (a large, international company who deal with millions of financial transactions a year) are giving me the accurate information that I need?

I just don’t know any more. I suppose this is one of the risks of using a third-party payment provider (well, that and a company whose support seems to ignore the actual contents of support messages): it’s easy to pass the buck back-and-forth.

23 Responses to “ Between a Rock and a Hard Place: 123-Reg Must Really Need My £11 ”

  1. […] going to quote other people who have experienced a similar issue to mine with 123-reg (‘auto renewing’ without consent), to prove that it was not a one-off, and that […]

  2. Are 123-Reg Now Astroturfing? on July 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    […] you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that about four months ago, I experienced problems with 123 Reg – the same problems that many other people have (and still do). I haven’t experienced […]

  3. James on August 2, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Hi

    Having exactly the same problem. I didn’t realise it was a common thing until I read this. Believe me, I won’t be stopped just because I am faced with having to write a letter. I work in the legal industry, completely know my rights and will most certainly be exercising them.

    Interestingly in my case ebay have confirmed that it is in fact an invalid transaction, so all I need now is for 123-reg to confirm this and unlock my account.

    I spoke to someone earlier today called Jade, she said she is going to look into it and email me. I shall give her a few hours and then I take the next step.

    I shall also be making a subject access request for the correspondance between ebay and 123-reg and the transcript from the telephone conversation that I had with Jade in which she swiftyl changed her story.

  4. Mike on August 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

    I am having the same issue they are taking unauthorised payments and the site will not allow me to switch off the auto renew process – I have asked them to switch off this facility and to ensure that no further payments taken – they have been less than helpful thus far and I’m growing concerned as I sent a note to my bank telling them no further payments to 123-reg and a note came back from the bank with 123-regs terms or reference saying its my fault as I had auto renew swiched on – things getting a little smelly I fear!

  5. Aisling on August 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    I registered 2 domain names with them last week and im trying to cancel them but seem to be getting the run around also. Im now scared and thinking i mite not be getting my money (almost £100) back!!
    I spoke to a girl called Jade who said she was sending me an email as we spoke, 20minutes later i still havent received it!

  6. James on August 18, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Jade is super efficent at offering to send emails. She just needs to learn to actually send them.

    I got an automated email from 123 reg telling me that an update had been put onto a support case for me and I was to log onto my account to view it. The problem being that the whole issue I have is that my account has been locked so I cannot get onto it!

  7. C Brown on September 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Same problem see all the reviews at http://www.reviewcentre.com/reviews92855.html
    for example, 123 reg will lock you out of your account if you dispute through your bank any payments they have taken even if you can provide evidence of it being their mistake. Be warned!

    Or search on Googe 123 Reg reviews

    Regards C Brown

  8. Mick on September 9, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I have discovered too late that 123-reg are a hugely untrustworthy outfit – I a good 30 minutes trying to work out their cancellations procedure and applying it to two domains, only for both domains to be renewed!

    It doesn’t matter on the status of the domains, if they’re under your account, you will be paying to renew them.

    Very shoddy. I would recommend all UK users of this company to send letters of complaint to trading standards and the popular PC and web print magazines. Regardless of advertising, if enough letters are sent on this issue, one of them will have to take notice

  9. Peter Gorman on September 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Hi folks, I’ve just gone through the same experience. I deliberately ignored emails coming in warning me my domains were about to expire because I assumed by ignoring them they would expire which is what I wanted but like everyone here they deducted the money from Paypal and will not refund it. Only £20 but it’s the principle that annoys me. I then found their help page which directs you through how to switch off auto-renew but because it has just been paid (through underhand tactics), it gives me the message that I have no domains up for renewal so I can’t switch off auto-renew. This is a real pro move from 123. This introduces the real possibility that in two years time when I am actually allowed to switch off auto-renew, they can sincerely hope that my anger will have worn off and that I will forget again. This is clearly designed to prevent users from cancelling when they want to in the hope of catching them again. Is there enough material here to send this to the BBC’s Watchdog programme? I suspect it may not be illegal but it certainly is shoddy practice and a very low form of deceitful selling. It would be nice to see them publicly named and shamed. Or would they even be shamed … they are probably proud of this policy and how it successfully nets them a few hundred thousand each year. Daniel, you have kept wonderful detail of your experience. Would you care to try and get BBC’s Watchdog interested? I would certainly gather up my info to back your case if you did. Regards, Peter.

  10. Steve on November 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I too have the exact same problem, and unfortunately disputed the payment before transferring out all of my domains. I am now the proud owner of a locked account, so can’t get on to change my IPS tags once and for all.

    Again, like others mentioned, its only a small amount of money. Thats not the issue, it’s the principal of the matter – I don’t take kindly to being so blatantly mugged by 123-reg!

    I for one will be contacting Watchdog on this one, unless someone helpful can point me in the direction of a regulatory body for this particular market!

  11. Dan on November 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    @Steve I haven’t said it here, but they also locked me out of my account after I made these complaints online. After I phoned them and complained about it online, they eventually re-opened my account. I asked that they tell me why I’d been locked out of an account that I’d paid for – they said they’d investigate and get back to me. They never did.

  12. Neil on February 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I have just been charged for renewal of domains I did not want as well. I _never_ registered my paypal account to be used by them, but they have just gone ahead and taken the money from it.

    Blatant thievery.

  13. Lotfi on March 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    123-reg sucks I had the same problem, they renewed somany unwanted packaged even I selected do not renew, I opened a dispute with paypal and got my money back but they locked my account. anyway to hell with it I didn’t need the domains they have anyway but I advice you to stay away from 123-reg they’re awful company

  14. Mark Powell on October 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Sorry to hear all the trouble you people have been having with 123 Reg. I have just registered a domain name with them, but didn’t get round to handing over my card details (I stopped to eat my tea). Anyway, I happened across these articles and now me thinks I’ll keep my Visa card safely tucked in my wallet.

  15. jon on December 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    They autorenewed 2 of my domains. I own 40 domains with them and nothing has EVER auto renewed. I didn’t know you COULD autorenew.

    I cancelled the transaction from the Paypal end because 123-reg didn;t answer the email I sent to the address supplied by Paypal, and now 123-reg have locked me out of my account. I cannot access the domains I have bought and paid for.

    I can feel a solicitor’s letter coming on…

    :0(

  16. David on December 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Do not go anywhere near 123reg, they are running a scam on a huge scale, attracting customers with their huge marketing/SEO machine and then helping themselves with people’s money.

  17. Rob on January 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I have had just the same experience with Auto renewal. Are there any plans to send this thread to Trading Standards please ?

  18. LJH on January 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I also got stung by the auto renewal scam for 2 domains that I’d purchased for 12 months, then 12 months later I got an email to say I’d paid for a further 2 years through PayPal.

    I raised a support ticket with 123-reg saying I wanted a refund as they hadn’t emailed me in advance of taking the money. They reckoned their system automatically generates 3 notifications beforehand, but I have not received these notifications & the email address they have for me is the same address I’ve been using for the past 10+ years. I challenged them to prove they had notified me in advance but they chose to ignore this and just maintained ‘the system’ sends the emails and because they can’t get their money back from the registrar then neither could I!

    After a day of going back and forth with the support robots at 123-reg I raised the matter with PayPal, explaining that because 123-reg hadn’t notified me in advance of taking payment this made it unauthorised. Within 24 hours PayPal found in my favour and have organised a full refund. Victory!! It’s only 35 quid, but it’s the principle of the matter.

    My advice – don’t give up, pursue them as far as it takes and ultimately take the matter to Consumer Direct, Trading Standards, the media, your MP – even the Police if you consider it fraud. And tell as many people as you can so that 123-reg’s already tarnished name is debased even further.

    One day, surely, they will have to take notice of the appalling reviews posted everywhere about their shoddy practice.

  19. Anas on February 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    iv just had dealings with these crooks. i rang them in advance to try and cancel my domains, they asked me to go online and set them so they wouldnt auto-renew, i did as they asked on 2 domains, i even RE-did them just to be sure and wouldnt you believe it, they renewed themselves. iv tried to contest them but as luck would have it, their precious logs show that nothing had been set which is nonesense. a week later the logs showed i did renew them but ON the day of expiry, which is strange as i had set them 2 days before. i have an ongoing dispute and have written a complaints email which will prob get ignored. iv instructed my bank to stop any further payments.

    its only £20 but its the principle, 123reg are nothing short of thieves and something needs to be done.

  20. Anas on February 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    just an update to me last post. iv been banging my head against a wall with some numpty who refuses to accept that i had set my domains to cancel auto-renew and surprise surprise their logs dont show that i did…. however after reading soe other comments on here i went and checked how i payed and to my good fortune, they charged my PayPal account. i logged onto paypals website and lodged a dispute for the charges to both the domains and with 20 hours paypal got my money back for me! THANKYOU PAYPAL! however 123reg also still had my credit card details so just for good measure i rang them up again and made them log a support ticket to have my credit card details removed, i rang up the next day to double check and it had been done (apparently). in any case i have my money back. 123reg ARE A DISGRACE!!!

  21. Matt Richards on March 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I have experienced exactly the same.

    Disgraceful business practices, I had no idea the money was going to be debited from my account, via a paypal recurring payment I had no idea existed.

    Coupled with 123regs inability to carry out a simple domain transfer which has now left my primary business domain in limbo (no DNS records, no email, no website).

    Absolutely disgusted. I will be taking my 30+ domains elswhere.

  22. Craig on April 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    123-reg are total crooks who steal from your card, when they have strict instructions that they do not have permission to store our credit card details in writing.

    Also trading standards are in league with these criminals as when I made a complaint they said 123-reg ‘small print’ allows them to steal from you.

    Trading standards as scum bag criminals themselves!

  23. Kerry on March 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    123.reg is a company that abuses data protection and customer details and is a scam. I am going to get this company sorted out once and for all. I am taking this to government level to sort. Do not buy from 123.reg!!

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