Bluehost’s Automatic Renewal Scam

The Web Hosting Giant Proves that a Brand Name is No Protection from Deception, Terrible Customer Service and RipOffs

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When my Medium account was suspended last year I was distraught. This thing I had poured my blood, sweat, and tears into for close to four years was suddenly gone. I actually did not expect it to have such a powerful impact on my psyche but boy did it ever. My lovely wife, who had been a source of constant support for my writing, tried to console me, and offered other ideas for hobbies or activities that I might take up to fill the hole left by the absence of my one writing outlet. She researched other websites I might publish on, but I continually begged off claiming “its just not the same” or “its too hard to start over” among a host of lame excuses. Finally, in an act of such divine sweetness it brings a tear to my eye even as I write this, she purchased a bluehost web domain and wordpress account as a gift for my birthday so I might have my own website and be able to publish my writings there.

She registered the domain name and a subscription which would allow me to use the domain to host my site for one year. Total cost $167. She did not sign up for automatic renewal even though it was heavily and sneakily pushed. She used her pay pal account which is linked to her bank checking account to make the payment. Fast forward to earlier this week when a bluehost charge for $305 dollars shows up on my wife’s paypal, despite the fact that she had not signed up for automatic renewal. Even if she had the amount had almost doubled from what she paid for the first year. No reminder or notification emails of any sort were sent from Bluehost. She immediately contacted Bluehost customer “support” and after being passed back and forth among several reps and over an hour spent on the phone was told that they would refund all of the amount but $29 and that the money would be back in her PayPal account within 48hrs. In a desire to get off of the phone and move on she said fine. 72h later no money had appeared yet Bluehost had attempted to bill her PayPal account twice more. Fortunately she had called both PayPal and her bank to report the original $305 charge as fraudulent and block the account. She was back on the phone with Bluehost that same evening for another frustrating hour of haggling and getting nowhere. As of day 6 she is still out the $305 dollars and a bank overdraft fee of $49 since the Bluehost charge drove her account into the negative.

Paypal was unwilling to do anything to help. According to their “investigation” (which sounded like it involved calling Bluehost to ask for their version of events) “discovered” that she had actually signed up for automatic renewal (she had not). Not only this but PayPal informed her that the terms of this automatic renewal are such that the dollar amount renewed can be changed at any time for any reason. WTF?? any time?, for any reason?, on an automatic renewal? That is bullshit of the highest order and Bluehost can eat me, PayPal can eat the leftovers. Way to turn what was a wonderfully thoughtful gift into a painful reminder of what greedy assholes people can be. Crock a shit.

This sort of thing is clearly a pattern with Bluehost as a quick Google search of “Bluehost scam” or “Bluehhost automatic renewal scam” or any of a dozen varieties returns dozens of stories, many much, much, worse than mine. How do these scam artists live with themselves, and more importantly how do they stay in business?

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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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