Have Heart Internet committed a crime?

  billstone 13:04 07 Feb 2013

Hi there;

I was looking for some advice for a situation I find myself in with my hosting company, which as the title suggests is Heart Internet from Nottingham UK.

In December 2012 I had my reseller account switched off for none paymant of a 44 pound bill. A couple of weeks later all my websites and emails were also turned off. Which left me with a bit of a problem as an affiliate marketer, as without my e-mails I can't earn any money.

Today I am officially unemployed.

At this stage let me first say I fully understand if you want to use a service you have to pay for it. But it was Christmas and things were really tight financially so a bunch of bills never got paid and all of the creditors were happy for me to double up next month when I spoke with them.

I am a good payer as a rule and I try not to get into the habit of asking favours unless absolutely necessary, which it was on this occasion.

So Vodafone, Direct Line, Sky, car lease and my bank credit card processing charges for my business all took a holiday for christmas, but Heart Internet were not having any of it.

Yesterday I found out Heart Internet had switched off my entire reseller account on January 16th, deleting maybe 25 PHP websites (including a Google News source since 2007 with over 14 million visitors to date), all associated databases, all of my e-mails etc etc. The whole shebang.

I'm not a bad payer with Heart Internet. Quite the contrary in fact. I have been a customer with them since late 2006 and I believe I haven't missed a single payment in the last (at least) 5 years.

So my question is, all of the associated files which were hosted on various Heart Internet servers, were mine, created by me as an affiliate marketer. Also all the databases, one of which has over 8000 URL's indexed with Google (although not any more) are also mine.

Am I correct in thinking thats tangible property? Because if so I believe I may have a case of theft on my hands which should be dealt with by the police.

To be honest I'm not interested in hosting with Heart Internet after this so there is no going back. But when I asked about my property they said I would need to talk to tech support to see if they could provide back ups, for which there will be a charge for each.

The problem is I had over 25 websites listed with them (and a lot more parked domains), so even if they only charge me £10 per back up its still £250 (in actual fact they charge £75) when the initial bill was only £44 so whatever way you look at it I feel like I'm being ripped off by Heart Internet...again.

Also I have spent a fortune on domains, which Heart Internet continue to hold to ransom even though they are legally mine until the next renewal date.

I wrote a blog on which I am documenting my experiences as a heart customer. heartinternetreview.blogspot.co.uk

On there you will find out some of the stunts and tricks they've pulled on me over the years. Like charging £144 per month...for 7months for a dedicated server, when my website was still on shared hosting.

Or selling me an 0845 number through one of their group websites and then threatening legal action unless I gave it back.

Its really been a tale of woe from the first year but to be honest I've been lazy in finding a replacement service which offers the same functions as the Heart Internet reseller account and as a result I put up with a lot of stuff I shouldn't have had to put up with. But no more.

So my question is if they continue to hold on to my property (web files databases etc), should I just report it to the police and let them sort it out?

Or is there some other means of getting my property back you could advise me on?

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me. I really am at my whits end over this. I've tried to claim unemployment benefit as a result but even thats held up at the moment so myself, my wife and our 4 kids are really struggling to survive without a successful outcome to this.

Thanks again.

  Forum Editor 13:41 07 Feb 2013

I sympathise with your present predicament over income, but let's look at the facts.

The Heart Internet terms regarding non-payment for services are very clearly set out. This is the relevant clause:-

"Time for payment shall be of the essence. No payment shall be deemed to have been received until we have received cleared funds. If your chosen method of payment is not authorised by your credit card provider or bank, you hereby authorise us to seek payment from any other credit card, debit card or direct debit registered against your account. Further, if your payment is still not authorised we may, at our discretion, suspend or terminate any Services we provide to you from time to time, even if payment in respect of such Services is not outstanding."

From which you will see that the company was perfectly within its rights to terminate your server access - you failed to pay what you owed.

With regard to the data you had residing on the company's servers, the terms are also very clearly laid out:-

"It is your responsibility to maintain appropriate and up-to-date back-up copies of any data, information or other material you upload (or permit to be uploaded) onto our servers ("Material") as part of your use of the Hosting Services. In the event of loss of or damage to your Material, you will not be given access to the server back-up we maintain pursuant to our archiving procedure."

From which you will see that again the company is within its rights. In any event, it is surely good working practice to keep local backups of all material uploaded to a web host's servers - you could have protected yourself by doing this.

I can't comment on the allegations you make about previous disputes with Heart Internet, but I have contacted them to offer them a right of reply here, in our forum. In all honesty I doubt that they will wish to discuss an individual customer dispute in a public web forum.

With regard to your comments about theft and the police - this is a matter for your own judgement. My personal advice is that no theft has occurred, and that the police will advice you they can't become involved in disputes of a commercial nature where there is no evidence that a crime has been committed. By your own admission you have breached the contract you entered into with Heart Internet, and the company is under no obligation to continue to provide you with a service.

  billstone 14:02 07 Feb 2013

Well thats fairly clear and concise advice, and thank you for your sympathy.

Yes I understand about what you say about back ups and such like. It probably is good practice. But I never banked on having back ups in case Heart Internet decided to pull the plug. It just was never on the horizon before now.

I guess the problem here is, I had taken for granted they would happily help out like all my other long term committments did (I've been with them almost 7 years). All of which had a higher monetary value than the Heart Internet bill. But I've since found out thats not going to happen so that perhaps was my 'rookie error'.

Of course you can't back up domain names, which are registered to me or my clients. That property remains unavailable to me too. So how would you say I stand on that? Some of the domains are registered through me but not necessarily in my name (its a reseller account after all).

So clearly there are still some unanswered questions.

I must admit I still feel really hard done by over this. Essentially they have switched off 7 years of my life and taken it away from me. So I will seek advice elsewhere and perhaps drop into the Police station on the way home from school to hear it from the horses mouth (as it were).

In the meantime thanks for your prompt reply.

  billstone 14:04 07 Feb 2013

School = School Run :-)

  Forum Editor 16:28 07 Feb 2013

"Of course you can't back up domain names, which are registered to me or my clients. That property remains unavailable to me too. So how would you say I stand on that?"

Provided domain name registration fees are paid in full you can transfer them away from Heart to a new name server. You'll need to sign up for a hosting package before you can do that, of course.

Domain names aren't 'property' as such. When you register a name and pay the requisite fee you buy the right to exclusive use of the name for the period of registration, that's all. You can obviously only use the name if it's hosted somewhere; once the hosting lapses the name is of little use to anyone until it's at least parked on another server.

I can appreciate that you feel disappointed, 7 years is indeed a long time, but if you'll forgive me for saying so you were the architect of your own downfall - you failed to pay, and you didn't make back-ups.

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