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.

17 Comments

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  1. I admire your care and candor. This is inspiring.

    Comment by scott drew — April 8, 2011 #

  2. I love you guys.

    Comment by Braden — April 8, 2011 #

  3. I believe I was the original Twitter poster (and here I thought no one checked the @nfsn twitter!):

    http://twitter.com/#!/nicholasemay/status/53635151124627456

    Thank you again for being the best thing since sliced bread; NearlyFreeSpeech.net — Doing It Right Since ’02.

    Also? That $12 to the EFF makes me feel warm & fuzzy; we should have a button so we can each donate five cents for a pizza party.

    We definitely read @nfsn, though not every day, and we aren’t able to respond to individual inquiries via Twitter. -jdw

    Comment by Nicholas May — April 9, 2011 #

  4. Just when I start loosing hope for the human race, you guys come and ruin it for all humanity. Nice going.

    Comment by SenaiERI — April 9, 2011 #

  5. Wow… I appreciate your services very much.

    Comment by Srikanth — April 11, 2011 #

  6. Fantastic as always. You guys are the best!

    Comment by Reginald — April 12, 2011 #

  7. Thank you so much for fixing this and sharing about it. Most companies would not. I appreciate your refreshing honesty.

    Comment by Jennifer — April 12, 2011 #

  8. Another reason why I can continue to unashamedly recommend NFS to anyone who will listen.

    Comment by Brad — April 12, 2011 #

  9. Outstanding! If only all companies had this level of customer service and care.

    Comment by Bjorn — April 16, 2011 #

  10. $56 over five years is pretty good for billing errors – I’m sure many companies go into the thousands per year.

    Like Brad, I recommend NFS to anybody willing to listen, and this gives me another reason to do so.

    Comment by thirdwheel — April 19, 2011 #

  11. You guys are the best. I’m new to this site, but will definitely be sticking with you.

    Comment by Joshua — April 19, 2011 #

  12. D’aaaw, you guys.
    But seriously: – services, cost and transparency; that’s why I stick with you guys. Kudos.

    Comment by Leslie Owusu-Appiah — April 22, 2011 #

  13. I love you guys too.

    Comment by Mike — April 25, 2011 #

  14. Just like to drop a note to say …

    Well done.

    Just got through scanning the FAQ, then came to the blog, and the first thing I see is this entry.

    Well done. The language, the attitude, everything. Don’t have a use for your service, particularly with no https (but your FAQ well explains why), but you’re bookmarked now, and I see no reason not to direct any interested person this way.

    Comment by Bill — April 25, 2011 #

  15. +1 for transparency. =)

    Comment by Audrey — April 27, 2011 #

  16. Awesome. I look to you guys for inspiration for how I want to run my own company, when I start one.

    Comment by Eliot — April 27, 2011 #

  17. You guys make cents!

    Comment by Robert Arkow — May 4, 2011 #

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