Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why just go when you can Boingo? Just be careful you don’t go when you don’t want to!

This morning, I was reading Bob Lawless’ post on Creditslips about his own tale of bad things that can happen with credit cards (see Unauthorized Charges Go Wild on Me). Bob’s tale reminded me of a nagging matter of my own that I’d found on my checking account statement this week for a $15.90 charge to my debit card for Boingo Wireless. Back in February, I created a Boingo Wireless account while travelling back from the AALS Contracts Conference so that I could use the Internet at the airport. Fortunately, I don’t travel too often because the Boingo service would log me on and charge my debit card whenever I visited anywhere with service. So, when I stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in Pittsburgh recently, Boingo charged me for two days of service even though the wired Internet service I used was free at the Residence Inn.

Boingo does not send invoices, so unless you check your credit/debit card statements, you are not likely to notice the charges or any errors. Boingo uses another little trick that Bob mentioned . . . they keep the charges small. They never charged me more than $15.90 at one time and spread them out over time.

Inspired by Bob Lawless, I called the Boingo folks this morning (and removed the software from my computer). Knowing my travel history, I kindly explained that this must be a billing error. The first line representative I spoke with employed the “confuse the caller” tactic by discussing the initial set up of the account back in February. Then, she explained their method of billing whereby charges are not made at the time of usage, but later. I call this the “confuse the user” tactic to make it hard for customers to know what charges relate to what days you might have used the Boingo service. She finally agreed to send me an invoice. Then we arrived at the heart of the matter, the Residence Inn charges. I explained to her that the Residence Inn provides free Internet, there would be no reason to need the Boingo service.

Here’s where we arrive at the automatic login feature that Boingo has. Once installed on your computer, Boingo is always looking for service for you. And, it saves your sign-in information conveniently for you. Since the customer signs up for the service which enables the “easy” re-login on other dates, you have used the service and the charge is valid. The customer must pay. At that point, I requested a supervisor, who told me the same story. When I raised issues about whether this results in truly “authorized” charges to credit/debit cards, whether Boingo was misusing customer credit cards, and fraudulent charging of cards, the supervisor immediately agreed to refund my money (and close my account). Not sure how good my claims were, but the Boingo supervisor had surely heard them before. Next time, my desperation for Internet service will have to give way to my fear of others automatically hitting any of my accounts. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The morality of some vendors surely lessens once we give them our card data.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I know I am commenting to your (almost) year old post, but I found this post when I was looking for Boingo's "unauthorized" charge.

We are dealing with the similar issue. We just turned on the computer at the airport and didn't intend to use the internet as it is too expensive, but Boingo went ahead connected and charged us for basically just turning on the computer!

I am shocked to see this type of practice is tolerated. And I am more surprised that not many people have complained so far.

If you can let me know if there any web forum or something that is dealing with this issue, please let me know. I am trying to recover my charge.

Thanks.

Ihate said...

DO NOT USE BOINGO, IT'S A SCAM!
IF YOU USE IT, YOU CAN KISS THE MONEY ON YOUR
BANK ACCOUNT OR CREDIT CARD GOOD BYE.

I live in FL, but "Bogus" Boingo Wireless is based in South Santa Monica, California. I wrote the attorney general there and asked him to investigate Boingo business practices. I've also filed a complaint with the FL state attorney and the CA Better Business Bureau. That's not all, I am on a mission. I bought http://www.ihateboingo.com I am currently working on the website. Boingo needs to be exposed, they are conducting the same business practices that Blockbuster had attempted and looked where it took Blockbuster. If you do a search online, you'll see people complaining about fraudulent charges from all over the world. They'll give you access alright as long as you give them unlimited access to your bank account. Here is my story:

I was on vacation flying from ATL (Atlanta) to CDG (France). Since I was going to arrive to France late, I needed to contact my hotel and the car rental agency to let them know that I would arrive late. Unfortunately I had no way to call, my only option was through the Internet. When I fired up my browser, one of the option was Boingo = Bogus. I thought I sign up for just a month – a month later I was charged for another month. When I called to cancel the service, I was on hold for almost half hour. When I finally reached someone from customer service, she was very unhappy with me because I was canceling the service. The last monthly charge was on 6/15/09. I had sent an email to them instructing them to cancel the account and refund the $9.95. I got an email back saying please call customer service to cancel. To make a long story short customer service failed to refund me the $9.95 even though I have only used their service once. Boingo just made the biggest mistake because I will let the world know how sucks their service is. I enjoy demolishing greedy companies like Boingo. I was a big advocate when Blockbuster decided to sell movies to customers if they didn’t return them without making customers aware of the charge beforehand – that has resulted http://www.blockbustervictims.com . I predict that Boingo will go out of business pretty soon if they continue on this path. The service itself is a mith, they are doing the same greedy things that several companies have tried and continue to do until someone like Math and others say enough is enough. It’s good that they monitor blogs, but I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up – soon the internet will be flooded with hating Boingo Wireless website and I’ll be the first one to put one up and report them. Bogus Boingo, you are in for a fight – see you on ihateboingo.com and how about Bogusboingo.com GREED MY FRIEND, IT WILL TAKE YOU NOWHERE.

Ihate said...

HOW TO FIGHT BOINGO - MORE TIPS TO COME

Some companies will never change, Boingo is using the same type of billing strategies that took our economy rock bottom. They believe as long as they use tricky and complicated service terms, they can get away with anything. They don't know history, Blockbusters and others have used those techniques , but look where they are now. This is wrong and we all have to take a stand. Please join me, I started a website right after Boingo failed to refund my money, money that I have worked hard for. If you have been victimized by Boingo, please take a stand. This is what I've done so far and it's very effective. I wrote a letter and mailed it to the Attorney General in California, I've also submit a complaint online at http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=CL

http://ag.ca.gov/contact/business_corpform.pdf
Mail Form to: Public Inquiry Unit Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

I've also put in a complaint with the Santa Monica Better Business Bureau:
The BBB that will handle your complaint is:
BBB of the Southland
(Colton, CA)
315 N. La Cadena P.O. Box 970
Colton, CA 92324-2927
Phone: (909)825-7280
Fax: (909)825-6246
Email: info@labbb.org
Web: http://www.labbb.org

You may wish to copy or print this information for further reference.
All correspondence about your complaint will come from and should be
addressed to this BBB.

You will need this when you put in your complaint:
Company name:Boingo Wireless Inc.
Country:United States
City:Santa Monica
Street:1601 Cloverfield Boulevard, Suite 570 SouthRegion:CaliforniaPostal c
ode:90404Phone(s):+1 8008804117
(fax) +1 3105865180
By the way, they have a lot of people backing them, people who benefit from their scams.

I sent email to Clark Howard through his website. While they did not accept me to be on the show, some lady called me and suggest that I also contact the Public Service Commission. She also suggests that I write to the president (frankly it's too late for that). TAKE A STAND BOINGO VICTIMS, JOIN ME AT IHATEBOINGO.COM/BLOG OR SEARCH GOOGLE FOR IHATEBOINGO. I AM EVERYWHERE SPREADING THE NEWS AND I STARTED JUST A FEW DAYS AGO - IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES: EVERY SINGLE PERSON THAT I BREAK THE NEWS TO IS A VICTORY.