A small billing error corrected

A few days ago, we noticed a tweet from one of our members mentioning that he had been charged twice in one day for his MySQL process, but that he didn’t plan to look into it. We, however, did. What we eventually uncovered was that for three of our services: MySQL, RespectMyPrivacy, and email forwarding, our system could hit a very rare case where it would “stutter” and double-bill somebody’s daily charge.

Of course, the first thing we did was turn off the billing on those services until the problem could be identified and fixed. So, pretty much everybody using MySQL, email forwarding, or RespectMyPrivacy received a day or two free this week.

In the case of MySQL, each charge “advanced the clock” by one day, so if a person got double-billed one day, they wouldn’t be billed at all the next; they were “early charged” rather than “overcharged.” Email and privacy work a little differently, however, and so people in a few cases did get double-billed for an extra penny. Fortunately, we do keep detailed billing records for active accounts, and were able to find all the cases where this had ever happened and over the past couple of days we have credited the accounts funding all affected email and privacy services. It turned out to be easier to credit both the original charge and the duplicate, rather than just the duplicate, so we did that.

A small minority of our members’ accounts were affected, and the amounts involved were fairly small (the average credit issued, which includes both the original charge and the duplicate, about 3 cents per incident). All told, we were off by around $56 over five years.

About $12 of that was related to accounts that no longer exist. As we do not have the ability to identify who those people were (nor would there be any viable way to refund a few cents to them even if we could), that amount will be included in our monthly donation to the EFF.

It may be tempting to blow this off due to the small amount of money involved. The original Twitter poster who mentioned it didn’t seem too concerned. But we did not blow it off. Being able to bill accurately is the cornerstone of our service. We take it incredibly seriously and no discrepancy like this, however small, will be tolerated.

We’re sorry this happened. To make it right, we’ve fixed the cause, credited the difference, and because we believe in transparency, we’re letting everyone know about it. And we appreciate the Twitter poster for bringing it to our attention.

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